A few years after graduating from university, Mr. Matsumoto became an elementary school teacher, and we were the first children he took charge of. However, none of the former classmates have memories of being taught by Mr. Matsumoto.
As soon as the weather was nice, Mr.Matsumoto proposed children to leave the classroom and went sketching together with them. He made strong girls take sumo wrestling against boys and watched them knock down boys with a wide smile. During class, he often threw chalks at noisy boys so as to punish them, but quite often his chalks strayed from the targets and hit the nearby girls and made them crying! He was such a teacher, but all of the former students remember him with nostalgia and affection. He was such a teacher.
I wrote about our class reunion that was held about a quarter century ago, when I started making a homepage on the Internet. The readers of this page can easily feel the atmosphere of our classroom from that essay. So I would like to quote it here.
Many years have passed since then and after we passed our 60th birthday, we held several class reunions for the first time in a long time. However, Mr. Matsumoto, who was already in his 80s, needed nursing care and was unable to participate. While we were discussing the way to take him out, as we would like to see him again, COVID-19 made it difficult for us to get together and Mr. Matsumoto to our regret passed away last summer. It was our honest feeling that we wanted to meet him again while he was still fine, and to listen to various stories about his life, and in particular to his usual nonsense.
Outside the classroom, I saw a painting of Mr. Matsumoto at the exhibition of contemporary art of Chiba Prefecture at the Chiba Prefecture Cultural Centre around 1970. I felt at the time that his work was too monotonous and lacked appeal and inferior to other artists.
After that, I had a chance to see among others small sculptures at an exhibition held at a nearby gallery before the above-mentioned class reunion, and at that time, I thought that he created quite interesting works. In the meantime, something might have happened to him that prompted a great leap forward.
In any case, those were the only two times I saw Mr. Matsumoto's works outside of our elementary school classroom. This is the first time I see Matsumoto-sensei's works comprehensively from the 70's to the 2000's. It's a presumptious way of saying it, but I thought they are pretty good. It was a little bit sad that only one painting, namely Butterfly 1960, was available from the time when we spent time together with him. Maybe, he then could not spare time for creative activities, because he was filled up with children to take care of as a fledging teacher.
I thought that the paintings with blue background from the 1970's was a little too beautiful for him. There is something in the way of painting blue that reminds me of the monotone coloring of the work I encountered in Inohana. It may be a feature of Mr. Matsumoto's expression at that time. On the other hand, his sculptural works have a strong antiquated impression reminiscent of ancient Greece. The image of Matsumoto-sensei is for me somewhat associated with life in rural Chiba. Therefore, his attachment to Greece is a bit surprising. Mr. Matsumoto visited Europe for the first time in a group of teachers when I was in high school.
In those days, mid 1960s, overseas travel was not popular yet, and the Europe tour might have been very impressive for him.
His craters and coelacanths were placed carelessly in the classroom when I was in elementary school, and the trace of them remains in large sculptures. Coelacanth itself has developed into a large work called Gombessa, and Persona is a coelacanth body with an ancient Greek face. I went to see the three monumental sculptures, including the winged turtle, right after the class reunion 25 years ago, and uploaded their photos on the website at the time.
I think we were the first students that Mr. Matsumoto took charge of when he started out as an elementary school teacher. For Mr. Matsumoto that was the very starting point as a member of society, and he must have had various experiences and encounters since then. Those people Mr.Matsumoto met, since we had left the elementary school, were the ones who made this exhibition possible. I should have asked at the reception desk who were the people who played a central role in realizing this exhibition, but I just missed it.
Well, for us, Matsumoto-sensei remains as a young man in his late twenties who is always talking nonsense and having fun with us children. On the other hand for the organizers of the retrospective exhibition, Mr. Matsumoto was an artist representing our home town.
Matsumoto-sensei got married shortly after we had left the elementary school and had a daughter. That child, of course, is now not young any more, and runs a smal hall near the JR Koenji station, not far from my house, which provides opportunities for young rakugo performers and Mr. Matsumoto used to visit the place and enjoy rakugo. I feel like such a business suits the daughter of Mr. Matsumoto, who was always joking.