Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita

Saturday, June 29 - Sunday, August 18, 2019

Mondays (except July 15 and August 12) and on Tuesday July 16
[Opening Hours]
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
* Fridays: Until 8:00 p.m.
* Last admission 30 minutes before closing time
[Admission Fee]
Adults (at the door): 1,100 yen, high school and university students (at the door): 900 yen
Adults (advance ticket): 900 yen, high school and university students (advance ticket): 700 yen
* Junior high school students and younger: Free
* For groups of 20 or more, admission fees are 800 yen for adults and 600 yen for high school and university students.
* Persons with a disability certificate or similar receive a 100 yen discount on tickets and one accompanying helper is admitted free.

Tickets can be purchased from:
Tokyo Station Gallery (until 30 minutes before the closing),
Lawson Ticket(L-code=33345), E Plus, CN Playguide, and
Seven Ticket.
* Advance tickets are on sale from April 27 to June 28, 2019.
* Advance tickets are on sale at the Tokyo Station Gallery reception desk until June 16, on days when the venue is open.

Free Entry for Students to Art Galleries in the Tokyo Station Area
Saturday July 20 to Wednesday July 31
During this period, admission is free for visitors who show their valid student ID at the reception desk.
[Organized by]
Tokyo Station Gallery (East Japan Railway Culture Foundation)
[In collaboration with]
Curators Inc., Art & Architecture

Flyer PDF

The Story of a Little-known Artist
Four Questions about Mesquita

1. Who is Mesquita ?

Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita (1868 - 1944). This unfamiliar name is that of a Dutch artist who lived from the late 19th century through early 20th century. Born into a Jewish family of Portuguese descent, he was active in Haarlem and Amsterdam as a painter, woodblock artist and designer in the field of decorative art. He was also an art school instructor and taught many students. One of his pupils was Maurits Cornelis Escher, who was greatly influenced by Mesquita. His early works in particular bear a striking resemblance to Mesquita’s.

2. What did Mesquita depict ?

Mesquita’s work embraces both design and art. In his design work, he drew upon geometrical compositions when working on things such as magazine covers and illustrations, and dyeing and weaving designs. Meanwhile, as a woodblock artist, he has left to posterity many woodcuts of people, animals and plants with emphatic black and white contrast. He also created countless drawings where his pencil was propelled by his untrammeled imagination.

3. What makes Mesquita special ?

The most fascinating aspect of Mesquita’s art is the intensity of expression in his woodcuts. Their bold sharp-lined composition and decorative pictures leveraging the contrast between light and shade have a strong impact on the viewer. The ideal motif for Mesquita was the exotic flora and fauna that had been brought to Artis Royal Zoo and botanical gardens in Amsterdam. It has been pointed out many times that the influence of Japan’s ukiyo-e woodcuts can be seen in pictures which meld together simplified composition, clear-cut expression, decorativeness and planarity. His drawings on the other hand, which he is said to have done almost unconsciously, depicting without any artifice the images that welled up in his mind, can be said not only to have an affinity with Expressionism but also to be a precursor to the automatism of Surrealism.

4. Why a Mesquita Exhibition Now ?

As a Jew, Mesquita was sent to a concentration camp in 1944, where he and his family were killed. Escher and his friends risked their lives to rescue the works that remained in Mesquita’s atelier and keep them safe, and they held an exhibition of them soon after the war had ended. It is largely thanks to their efforts that Mesquita’s name has not been forgotten. Recently in Europe a complete catalog of his works has been published and a series of exhibitions held, and momentum is building for a comprehensive presentation and assessment of Mesquita’s works. 2018 saw the 150th anniversary of his birth, and 2019 sees the 75th anniversary of his death. To mark this, we are holding the first full-scale exhibition in Japan of the works of this little-known artist. It consists of five sections, in which a total of around 240 works by Mesquita are on display: roughly 180 woodcuts and around 60 other works (oil paintings, watercolors, etc.).

A Brief Chronology of Mesquita’s Life

Born into a Jewish family in Amsterdam.
Entered the State Academy of Fine Arts to study architecture but transferred to the National University of Education one year later.
First attempts at etching.
Started to use the batik technique (wax-resist dyeing).
Created his first woodcut.
Employed as a dyeing and weaving designer working on items such as curtains and tablecloths.
Started to work as a teacher at the School of Architecture and Ornamental Design in Haarlem.
M.C. Escher entered the school and was taught by Mesquita.
Paid visits to Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam at around this time and created many woodcuts on the theme of exotic animals.
Held his first solo exhibition in Rotterdam.
Created many lithographs.
Appointed chairman of the Graphic Art Society (until 1924).
Retired from teaching when the School of Architecture and Ornamental Design was closed down.
Appointed professor at the National Academy of Visual Arts (until 1937).
The Netherlands was occupied by the Nazis. The persecution of Jews is said to have been much worse in the Netherlands than in any other Nazi-occupied region.
Along with his wife and son, seized by the Nazis on the night of January 31. Escher and other pupils risked their lives to rescue the works that remained in Mesquita’s atelier and keep them safe. Mesquita and his wife were killed in Auschwitz on March 11, and their son was killed in Theresienstadt twenty days later.