Photo/IllutrationSesson Shukei’s Muromachi Period work “Getsuya Dokucho-zu” from the Sanso Collection of Japanese paintings in the care at the Chiba City Museum of Art (Provided by the Chiba City Museum of Art)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Globally renowned management guru Peter Drucker (1909-2005) had another lesser-known passion--collecting old Japanese art.

And the works, in which he is said to have found a deep source of inspiration for contemplations on business, will be showing at an art museum in Chiba this spring.

The Vienna-born American management scholar preached the importance for businesses to manage in such a way to bring out their potential and fulfill their social responsibility.

His ideas had a great influence on Japanese companies when the economy was rapidly growing between the late 1950s and early 1970s.

Drucker "fell in love" with old Japanese art in his 20s, and since first visiting this country in 1959, he started hunting for and collecting such works. He later published essays on the essence of Japanese art and taught art history at college.

After his death in 2005, there was concern that the 197 artworks in his collection would be dispersed. But a Japanese company purchased them, and they ended up being housed at the Chiba City Museum of Art.

Part of the collection will go on display at the museum starting April 13.

Drucker's collection reveals his taste for austere elegance. There are no ukiyo-e works, which are typically painted with vivid hues. Rather, most works are "suibokuga" pictures drawn in China ink with light touches of color; zen paintings; and "bunjinga" pictures, an artistic genre formed by scholars who painted according to their tastes and temperaments in a style adopted from that of the Southern China school.

Art critics say that the most acclaimed works in the collection are the suibokuga from the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), which he began collecting intensively in his early years as a Japanese art fanatic.

Among them is “Getsuya Dokucho-zu” by Sesson Shukei, a 16th-century painter and Buddhist priest. The work features rugged nature represented in powerful strokes.

Masatomo Kawai, director of the museum, called the piece “one of Sesson’s finest.”

Kawai said Drucker’s collection is also distinguished by many works of obscure artists who remain relatively unknown because the paucity of their paintings makes it difficult for researchers to evaluate their artistic value.

"It shows that Drucker, simply following his aesthetic sense, bought artworks that he found captivating, even if the artists were not well known," Kawai said.

Many of the works in the collection are said to have graced Drucker's home, and people who knew him said he would gaze at them to regain peace of mind and enhance his world view.

In particular, landscapes drawn in the suibokuga style were apparently a great source of inspiration. Such works offered opportunities for contemplation and helped shape his own experiences, life and vision.

Hideki Yamawaki, a professor at Claremont Graduate University’s graduate school of management in Claremont, California, where Drucker taught for more than 30 years, said he believed that spending time with such paintings deepened Drucker's perspective and fed into his contemplations about business management.

"Drucker was convinced that fully grasping the inner nature of humans is essential to better management of an organization," he said. "I can imagine him deepening his insights into people by giving thought to the backdrop and ideas behind those paintings."

An arrangement was made to leave Drucker's collection in the care of the Chiba art museum after the museum, the Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum and other venues staged exhibitions of his collection four years ago.

Kawai expressed his gratitude for the arrangement, saying: “Publicly supported museums, like ours, have only limited funds to purchase paintings. We're fortunate to have his works for research and display."