Japanese American National Museum
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Two Nuns and Church

Sugimoto, Henry [ bio ]

Two Nuns and Church
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H: 26.75 in, W: 32.25 in

France, 1931


Gift of Madeleine Sugimoto and Naomi Tagawa, Japanese American National Museum


Unstretched, unframed canvas.

The primary subject is a French church, the collegiate church of La Chapelle-sur-Crecy, a Gothic structure with a single tower, arched windows, and what may be flying buttresses along its sides. Two nuns in traditional habit with their backs to the viewer are walking on the sidewalk around the left side of the church. A road curves around the left. A stylized tree, bare of leaves, stands at lower right.

Signed in medium, bottom left corner: H. Sugimoto, 1931

This painting reflects Sugimoto's early interest in the churches and cathedrals of France. The church itself is likely the Eglise de Rampillon, a particularly beautiful example of Gothic architecture in east central France near the rural town of Tigeaux. As a young painter, Sugimoto seems to have been captivated by the Seine Marne region, also a favorite of Dunoyer De Segonzac, one of Sugimoto's primary influences. Like De Segonzac, Sugimoto traveled and painted in the area seeking vistas that incorporated architectural forms into the French country landscape. Sugimoto captures the powerful masonry effects of the church through a palette of deep grays matched in the color of the sky. The layered composition of the painting mirrors the architecture of the church itself and Sugimoto uses vertical brushstrokes to build the geometric forms. He reserves his more fluid, open brushstrokes for the trees and ground surrounding the church, a technique that emphasizes the contrast between the solidity of the church and the dynamism of the natural world. The branches of the tree on the lower right swirl like flames while the church stands locked in a timeless realm.

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