LÉONARD TSUGUHARU FOUJITA (1886 -1968).
LES DEUX AMIES, BRUNE ET BLONDE (THE TWO FRIENDS, BRUNETTE AND BLONDE)
Engraved plate from the album Femmes (Women) - Editions Artistiques Apollo. 1030 ( Sylvie Buisson, 3 - 126).
Dimensions: 43,7 x 57,7 cm (17-1/4 x 22-3/4 in.).
Etching of colored printing on Chinese rice-paper applied onto Japanese paper. Slightly exposed proof, signed lower right and numbered 67/100 in brown ink.
Minor foxings scattered throughout, few abrasions, breaks along the margins and borders, one within the numbering, faint pinholes in the superior right border of the sheet.
Dimensions of sheet: 57 x 71 cm (22-1/4 x 28 in.).
"It was predicted that I would be the first painter from Japan, but I dreamed of being the first painter of Paris"
(Foujita, Profile of Tokyo, 1929)
From Tokyo to Paris
France knows well the painter Tsuguharu Foujita. He impressed Parisians during the early 20th century with his delicacy in drawings of cats, intense and smoky gaze for young women, and the rigor and finesse of his languid nudes. But the dandy artist was born in 1886 in Tokyo, in a traditional Japanese army family. After his general studies, he received parental permission to register at the Tokyo National University of Fine Art and Music where his interest in European painting became decisive. He desired to highlight subjectivity and feelings in his paintings unlike the Japanese pictorial tradition in search of the sublime. The only way for Foujita to gain recognition was heading West. Europe represented for the young painter a wind of freedom unknown in his native archipelago. Through the stories of his uncle the painter Okada Saburo (in Paris from 1897 to 1902), Foujita dreamed of one day having a role in this artistic fervor that animated the bohemian neighborhoods of Paris. In 1913, this future darling of Montparnasse, left Tokyo for a short trip to the heart of European artistic movements. Upon his arrival in the capital, the young painter knew he must be original and abandon somewhat the Japanese art standards and education. He wanted to start from scratch, inventing his own style in order to stand out in the contemporary Paris.
The darling of Montparnasse
After several years marked by poverty and hard work, Foujita made his debut at the Salon of Autumn in 1922. Mission accomplished for the Japanese artist during Roaring Twenties “he is one of the best-known, most beloved, most celebrated painter of Paris,” said his friend and art critic André Warnod (Chez Foujita, January 1928). Reigning a unique atmosphere in Montparnasse artists from around the world gathered around the same desire for freedom, belief in a new opened world that allowed creative audacity.
Foujita easily fit into this cosmopolitan bohemian world that André Warnod titled Ecole de Paris in 1925. At art parties and salons, Foujita became a key figure in the interwar period. Surrounded by Derain, Modigliani, Soutine, Kisling and Blaise Cendrars, he participated in the opening of the first dancing bar in Paris, La Coupole in 1926 with Kiki de Montparnasse as the queen and emblem. With his painting "Nude with Toile de Jouy" (MAM, 1922) Kiki was Foujita’s model who seduced Montparnasse. The only Japanese in this group differed from other Bohemian dandies by his style with combed moustache and big round glasses; as well as his enameled paintings with outlines.
Foujita found his way, granting him glory and originality.
The subtle blend of East and West
Proud of his Japanese origins and love of France, Foujita was able to combine East and West with subtlety and delicacy. Despite having been inspired directly by traditional techniques of Japanese prints, he nevertheless made works of modern art that innovated art in his century. In his own words, the artist sought to “combine the rigor of the Japanese outline with Matisse’s free style”.
At a time when the avant-garde painters experimented with pure color and thick material, Foujita invented a completely transparent artwork, closer to drawing than color. The artist employed the printmaking technique from the Edo period, ukiyo-e (hues are
The love for women
“One day I suddenly realized that there is not many nudes in Japanese art; in Harunobu and Utamaro paintings, there is simply a part of an arm (...) For the first time I decided to reproduce the finest materials: human skin” (Fujita, Profile of Tokyo, 1929). Work on the female nude was a theme that appeared with Foujita in 1921 and became the focus of his research until 1930. The artist then places special attention to the rendering of skin tones, carnations and the model. In the Roaring Twenties, women who sought freer ways were inspired by the heroine in Victor Margueritte’s book “The Bachelor Girl” (published in 1922). Foujita was so enthusiastic to this phenomenon as the boyish short hair, the bob, allowed him to the represent the emerging neck and shoulders: essential to express the feminine sensuality.
After 1927, Foujita composed many works where he staged two young women, usually a brunette and the other blonde: Les Deux Amies (The Two Friends). With both models, the set of lines, curves, curves and opposites complicated and solved the graphic enigmas which passioned the artist (S. Buisson catalogs have over thirty versions of the theme in various media). Stump permits delicate passages between the two models while the short trait outlines both. Like the engraved print for sale on Expertissim his models were “bachelor girls” or “flappers” such as the famous Kiki but also his wife Youki, Mado Anspach, Olga Picasso, Gertrude Stein, etc.
These female nudes were propelled to the front stage of the Parisian art scene.
Engraving or the ideal of perfection
Foujita was a painter enamored of perfection. He loved ancient and modern techniques, whether Eastern and Western. From the 1930s on, along with his oils on canvas, the artist created etchings for Apollo Artistic editions. These large-format prints were compiled in albums, one of six prints, entitled Les Femmes (Women). This work allowed Foujita to correct and improve his studies to strive for absolute perfection. It does not seek to duplicate his masterpieces but rather to progress beyond. The curiosity with Foujita was that he experienced all facets of Western art without ever exhausting the subjects.
To further explore the mysteries of this painter often described as a “magician” by his contemporaries, do not hesitate to visit the website realized by Sylvie Buisson (biographer of the artist): www.foujita.org
Marion Sailhen (Student)
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