The Maillol Museum’s retrospective is fascinating for two reasons. The first reason is obviously the quality and wide range of the Japanese artist’s work. The second reason is Foujita’s very life, which has been so singular that she discovers herself as a novel.
After studying Western painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, the 26-year-old Francophile arrived in Paris to settle in the Montparnasse district. There he immediately met all the artists who would go to the Paris School from 1918, Soutine and Modigliani being his friends. Foujita knew glory from his first exhibition in 1917, he was celebrated by the international press and his work was shown all the way to the United States. A tireless worker, he is also a regular at parties. We smile at the small video of a particularly unbridled evening of the Roaring Twenties. He was named Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1925 and was certainly the best paid artist at that time, which earned him a severe tax adjustment. He married several times, returned to Japan during the Second World War (which provoked violent controversy when he returned to France), obtained French nationality, was baptized in the cathedral of Reims to become Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita and finally decorated the chapel of Our Lady of Peace built on that occasion before dying in 1968.
With his bowl cut, his little moustache, his round glasses, his earrings and his taste for Parisian fashion, Tsuguharu Foujita will have been the archetype of the dandy artist of the Roaring Twenties. Like Andy Warhol, Foujita was also the master of his own staging and self-promotion. We discover him in his numerous self-portraits and photographs of the artist at work in a carefully thought-out setting. Like Warhol too, he made numerous (very lucrative) portraits of the sponsors or influencers of the art world. Foujita’s success is due to her original and innovative style, a synthesis of inspirations and techniques from the East and the West, inspired and respecting both the great Japanese masters and European classicism.
The most beautiful pieces exhibited are certainly, in my opinion, the two dytics Combat I and Combat 2 made in 1928. These enigmatic paintings represent entwined and alangue wrestlers and couples. These works were considered lost, stored in a furniture repository. They reappeared in 1992 when the artist’s widow donated these pieces to the Conseil Général de l’Essonne.
Foujita, painting in the Roaring Twenties from
7 March to 15 July 2018
Musée Maillol61 rue de Grenelle
Ouvert from 10h30 to 18h30