Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968) La femme au voile 8 3/4 x 6 3/8 in (22.3 x 16.2 cm) (Painted in 1954)

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Lot 41
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita
La femme au voile 8 3/4 x 6 3/8 in (22.3 x 16.2 cm)

Sold for US$ 150,000 inc. premium
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968)
La femme au voile
signed 'Foujita' (lower left); signed and dated 'Foujita/ 1954' (to the stretcher)
oil on linen
8 3/4 x 6 3/8 in (22.3 x 16.2 cm)
Painted in 1954


  • Sylvie Buisson has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

    La femme au voile was painted in 1954, in the middle of a decade which saw Foujita face a number of significant personal challenges in the continuing aftermath to his years in Japan during the war. He became a naturalized French citizen in 1955, and began taking instruction in Catholicism, finally converting in 1959. At his baptism he took the additional name Léonard as a reference both to to the Japanese martyr, Leonard Kimura and in homage to Leonardo da Vinci.

    During his period of Catholic instruction, Pope Benedict XV opened doors of the Vatican collections to the Japanese artist. He was particularly in awe of the works of Giotto and the murals of the Cappella Niccolina. Foujita's works increasingly included religious scenery with a fascination for the Mother and Child. As Robert Rey explains, 'In Asia, every childhood is sacred... it is by instinct that Foujita transforms the children of France into fairies. Consider what becomes of Cosette from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, a book the artist perhaps never read... a little girl unburdened by the slightest misery' (S. Buisson, Foujita et ses amis du Montparnasse, exhib. cat., Loiret, Chateau de Chamerolles, 2010, p. 134).

    La femme au voile is an example of Foujita's ability to combine these varied inspirations while preserving his Japanese instincts. On a small-scale linen canvas, presented like a devotional object, he combines a meditative scene with his usual refined and delicate lines. The three girls are depicted in silk garments looking peacefully past from the spectator. Their pearlescent skin enveloped by the vivid fabric is contrasted against a rough brick background which propels the viewer's attention to the poised characters and the fine linear detail.

    As Foujita stated 'I wondered why my predecessors had only come to measure themselves against Europeans with the intention of returning to occupy important positions in Japan. I on the other hand was determined to lead a serious struggle on the continent, to compete on the real battlefield, even if it meant rejecting everything I had learned up until then' (Foujita quoted in S. Buisson, op. cit., 2010, p. 54). La femme au voile is a testament to the artist's desire to leave such a legacy which united European and Asian influences into a single painting.

    Foujita's career was launched at the age of fourteen when one of his watercolors was selected to be exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. It is most likely this early fame that encouraged the artist to pursue his studies at the Tokyo University of Fine Art and then to move to Paris in 1913. During these years, he joined the company of contemporary artists such as Diego Rivera, Chaim Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani. He exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and became an integral member of the Ecole de Paris. Thanks to the encouragement of the press, he gained both a French and Japanese following.

    Foujita left Europe in 1931 for Brazil, successfully exhibiting all over Latin America. He returned to Japan in 1933, serving as a war artist during the Second World War. Following this period of distress and great tension he struggled to return to France. Finally, in 1950 he and his new wife Kimiyo were granted a visa to return to Paris to settle in his beloved Montparnasse. Once he was there, his friend the art dealer Paul Pétridès helped him regain the successes of les années folles in the 1920's.
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968) La femme au voile 8 3/4 x 6 3/8 in (22.3 x 16.2 cm) (Painted in 1954)
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968) La femme au voile 8 3/4 x 6 3/8 in (22.3 x 16.2 cm) (Painted in 1954)
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968) La femme au voile 8 3/4 x 6 3/8 in (22.3 x 16.2 cm) (Painted in 1954)
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