LÉONARD TSUGUHARU FOUJITA (1886-1968) Fillette aux perruches 13 1/8 x 8 3/4 in (33.3 x 22.2 cm) (Painted in 1956)

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Lot 17
Fillette aux perruches 13 1/8 x 8 3/4 in (33.3 x 22.2 cm)

Sold for US$ 492,500 inc. premium

Impressionist & Modern Art

13 Nov 2018, 17:00 EST

New York

Fillette aux perruches
signed 'Foujita' (lower left); signed and dated 'Foujita 1956' (on the reverse of the frame)
oil on canvas
13 1/8 x 8 3/4 in (33.3 x 22.2 cm)
Painted in 1956


  • This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné by Sylvie Buisson.

    Galerie J. Le Chapelin, Paris.
    Paul Pétridès, Paris.
    Private collection, Hillsborough, California (acquired in the late 1950s).
    Thence by descent.

    "It was predicted that I would be the best painter in Japan, but I dreamt of being the best painter in Paris. I had to go to the source of Parisian art."

    Painted in 1957, Fillette aux perruches is a brilliantly colored depiction of a young girl with parakeets from the artist's mature oeuvre. Beginning in the 1950s, during his second Paris period, Foujita drew inspiration from his everyday life, shifting his focus from the sensual nudes of the 20s and 30s to paintings featuring children and young girls. In the present work, Foujita's adolescent girl is innocent and meditative, her large, blank eyes inextricably fixed upon the viewer. Her gaze and form are nevertheless delicately charged as she playfully holds two birds in her hands. Fillette aux perruches is a quintessential example of the artist's ability to seamlessly blend his Japanese origins with the classicism of the great Western masters.

    The son of a general in the Japanese Imperial Army, Foujita moved to France in 1913 at the age of 27 after studying at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He settled in Montparnasse, a district favored by infamously bohemian artists. It was in Paris where Foujita became one of the most famous figures of the School of Paris and developed a career by blending two distinct cultures. The Paris School did not belong to a movement. Rather, artists gathered together, carrying with them their different cultures and individual styles, and in doing so creating an exciting synergy in vibrant Paris. In 1917, Galerie Chéron held a solo exhibition of Foujita's work where seventeen of his watercolor paintings were prominently displayed. Picasso, who was also living in Montparnasse at the time, was drawn to Foujita's watercolors and lingered at the exhibit, undoubtedly showing admiration for his work. It was not until Foujita visited Renoir in southern France in 1918, that he began regularly experimenting with oil paints, attempting to express the elegant quality of Eastern painting in this newfound medium, and to invoke the aesthetic lines of watercolor while using oils. Later that year, Foujita submitted six oil paintings to the Salon d'Automne, which unprecedentedly selected all offered works and exhibited them alongside works by Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse. Foujita's presence in these important exhibitions catapulted him to great fame.

    From the beginning of his career in Japan, to his rise to fame as the quintessential image of a Roaring Twenties dandy in Paris, Foujita maintained his distinct artistic style. Despite the presence of avant-garde artists such as Picasso and Modigliani who championed Cubism and Modernism, Foujita refrained from joining a distinct Modernist movement, and instead created his own unique style combining Japanese and Parisian culture. Foujita's modernity and originality resided in precisely this fusion of the formal training of his Japanese heritage, the finesse of his lines, and a reinterpreted iconography and luminous palette of his adoptive country.

    In 1930, Foujita concluded his first Paris period and set off to travel the world. He visited the United States, where he briefly lived in New York, and later toured Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. Foujita returned to Paris in the early 1950s and began the work of his second Paris period. Both Foujita and Paris had changed in the interim period, and the artist's paintings now almost exclusively focused on the depiction of children. Although Foujita had no children of his own, the artist enjoyed playing with young children and was interested in conveying their aura of innocence and purity. The youthful girl depicted in Fillette aux perruches exudes a charming innocence, while also possessing the elegance characteristic of traditional portrait paintings. It is a unique and important example from an iconic period of the artist's career.

    The present work features the young girl standing in front of a bird cage, her eyes gazing forward with a grace and charm that exudes spiritual purity. The use of color in this painting also showcases the bright colors characteristic of Foujita's mature period. The girl's skin is a bright luster of ivory white and exhibits the artist's iconic style of the 1920s. The young girl, under Foujita's tender and gentle eye, is depicted in all her charm and purity, drawing the viewer in under her spell. By the time, Foujita executed the present work, the artist had depicted human subjects for many years, and his rendering of lines had already reached a level of virtuosity. Fillette aux perruches is rich not only in its composition, but also in its inclusion of all the artist's iconic techniques in one work.

    Born Tsuguharu Foujita in 1886, in Tokyo, Foujita converted to Catholicism toward the end of his life and adopted the name Léonard following his baptism in October 1959. Foujita took the Christian name Léonard as a tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, an artist whose masterpiece Lady with an Ermine (1489-90) was undoubtedly a key inspiration for the present work. In addition to Leonardo da Vinci, Foujita was also inspired by the Impressionist master Pierre-August Renoir, whom he visited in the south of France in 1918, and Édouard Manet. Both Renoir and Manet were renowned for their paintings of young women, and both painted large scale works depicting women with their pet birds. As the art critic Fritz-René Vanderpyl stated in 1920, "Foujita is a successful Japanese painter who has succeeded in harnessing the picturesque aspects and principles of European art, with which he has enhanced his Oriental vision" (quoted in Foujita: Painting in the Roaring Twenties (exhibition catalogue), Musée Maillol, Paris, 2018, p. 3). Fillette aux perruches is a prime example of Foujita reinventing himself by creating a modern figurative composition that combined Eastern Japanese and Western styles.
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