07 December 2012

Cat Power : The Enigmatic Art of Tsuguharu Foujita

Portrait of Foujita, 1927 -by Madame D’Ora
His name in Japanese means "field of wisteria, heir to peace." He was the son of a general, a black belt at judo. And in the 1920s—known as Fou-Fou or Mad-Mad—he was the most famous and the most eccentric artist in Montparnasse. He had a haircut modeled on an Egyptian statue and a wristwatch tattoo around his wrist. He wore earrings, a Greek-style tunic, a "Babylonian" necklace, and on occasion a lampshade instead of a hat. (He claimed it was his national headdress.)
Woman and Cat, 1937

He'd arrived in Paris from Tokyo in 1913 and had soon rented a studio in the Cité Falguière, where Modigliani and the Lithuanian-born painter Chaim Soutine were already working. Foujita was a good cook, I read; he was meticulously clean—he tried to teach Soutine to brush his teeth and to use a knife and a fork. Foujita had frequented Isadora and Raymond Duncan's school of movement and dance (hence the Greek-style tunics). He'd favored the Café La Rotonde, where Trotsky used to play chess, over the Dôme, the favorite haunt of the Fauvists. 

Foujita, Paris, juin 1957 -by Thérèse Le Prat
He was apparently an adept dressmaker, courting his future wife, the painter Fernande Barrey, by making her a blouse. (He stayed up all night to do it.) He talked endlessly to Modigliani, the books said, about the traditions of Japanese painting; and it was partly through the influence of Foujita's background and methods—he'd found a way of painting in black on a porcelain-white oil background—that Modigliani became (like Foujita himself) one of the few Montparnasse artists to favor line over color.
Foujita, 1954 -by Sabine Weiss

In 1931 Foujita traveled and painted all over Latin America, giving hugely successful exhibitions along the way. Two years later he was welcomed back as a star to Japan; and he stayed there—through Mady's death in 1935 (probably from drugs)—till 1939, when he returned once more to Paris. He didn't stay in France long, however. The threat of German invasion forced him back to Japan, where he was enlisted as a war artist, first for the conflict between Japan and China and then, after Pearl Harbor, for the war against the Allies. He was only able to return to his beloved France in 1950.
Excerpts from Lost Art: The strange life of Tsuguharu Foujita, the toast of 1920's Montparnasse, more successful than Picasso at his peak, and now forgotten (except by connoisseurs of line drawings) by Jo Durden-Smith for Departures (1999)

Quai aux Fleurs- Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita
Jil Sander tribute to Foujita
Foujita, ‘Cafe’ (1918)

Foujita - Les deux amies, brune et blonde (detail)

Leonard Foujita, Self-portrait, 1926

My Dream, 1947

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