LÉONARD TSUGUHARU FOUJITA (1886-1968) Paysage de Paris, place du Tertre (Painted in Paris in December 1917)
Lot 17AR
LÉONARD TSUGUHARU FOUJITA
(1886-1968)
Paysage de Paris, place du Tertre
Sold for £ 125,000 (US$ 162,889) inc. premium

Lot Details
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE FRENCH COLLECTION
LÉONARD TSUGUHARU FOUJITA (1886-1968)
Paysage de Paris, place du Tertre
signed and inscribed in Japanese and signed again 'T. Foujita' (lower left); signed, inscribed and dated '1917 December, In Paris, Montmarte, Foujita Tsuguharu' in Japanese (verso)
oil on canvas
55 x 46.4cm (21 5/8 x 18 1/4in).
Painted in Paris in December 1917

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Galerie Chéron, Paris.
    Dr. Ségard Collection, Paris.
    Thence by descent to the present owners.

    Exhibited
    Paris, Musée Maillol, Foujita, peindre dans les années folles, 7 March - 15 July 2018, no. 21.

    Literature
    A. Salmon, 'Foujita', in Feuillets d'Art, no. VI, September 1922, (illustrated pl. 84).
    S. Buisson, Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita, sa vie, son oeuvre, Vol. II, Paris, 2001, no. 18.126 (illustrated p. 173).

    The present work, Paysage de Paris, place du Tertre, is part of an array of early cityscapes that Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita painted in the first years after his arrival in Paris. The painting was executed in 1917, which was a sensational year for the artist as he received critical acclaim from the international avant-garde, and his ground-breaking vision, style and technique became embedded in both the Eastern and Western art historical canon.

    After having received French education at a private school in Japan, Foujita knew already from a young age he wanted to move to Paris, as he became aware of the artistic climate in Europe and learned about the pioneering movements such as the Impressionists and the Fauves. After graduation his father insisted he should continue his studies at the School of Fine Art in Tokyo for a few more years. In 1913, the twenty-seven-year-old Foujita finally left for Paris with the objective to place himself within the art historical discourse of Modern Art.

    Foujita settled in Montparnasse, an area that formed a melting-pot for artists who wished to establish their artistic careers within the avant-garde. On just the second day after Foujita's arrival in Paris, he was invited by the Chilean painter Ortiz de Zarate to visit the studio of Pablo Picasso. Here Foujita absorbed the new surroundings; props such as African tribal masks, musical instruments and other various materials amidst the great paintings from Picasso's blue, rose and Cubist periods. As Foujita explained: 'As soon as I left Picasso's studio I went home and threw all my paints and artist's materials to the ground. It was only my second day in Paris and already I was trying to forget all the techniques I had learnt in Japan, from how to hold my palette to the way I washed my brushes' (L. T. Foujita quoted in S. Buisson, Foujita, Paris, 2007, p. 52).

    One further discovery that Foujita made while visiting Picasso's studio was the work of Henri 'Le Douanier' Rousseau: the Spanish artist owned a small number of the naïf master's works, and Foujita was immediately enchanted by the stylistic simplicity, and tonal melancholy, of Rousseau's paintings. The influence of 'Le Douanier' is evident in this early period of Foujita's work in Paris. The crisp outlines of the bare trees, and the solitary outlines of the few figures that inhabit works such as Paysage de Paris, place du Tertre are more than reminiscent of works such as Rousseau's Rue de village, 1909 – 1910 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).

    The following months were filled with euphoria for the artist, as he immersed himself within the Parisian art world, acquainted himself with the different facets of the European avant-garde, participated in the aesthetic debate, and tried to connect these new principles to the fundaments of Japanese art and techniques he had learnt in Tokyo.

    Foujita met a fellow Japanese artist Riichiro Kawashima, who became a dear friend in the following years and became a great influence on him. He and Kawashima became inseparable, and always showed up eccentrically dressed to many gatherings organised by the artist community in Montparnasse. Together they formed a social phenomenon, and were admired by many artists such as Diego Rivera, who painted a Cubist double portrait of them dressed in Ancient Greek attire. In this period Foujita started to paint his first scenes of Paris in
    the style of an oriental landscape: stark, calligraphic and minimalistic.

    Even after the outbreak of the First World War, Foujita decided to stay in Europe where he continued to work on his own visual language and improving his technique. After a brief stay in London, the artist returned to Paris in January of 1917. By now Foujita formed a central figure within the avant-garde, and he established close relationships with his peers Amedeo Modigliani, Chaïm Soutine and Guillaume Apollinaire among others. As he remembers: 'I really liked these poor artists. Those who wanted to follow the path of a painter didn't give a damn about poverty and weren't scared of it. In their company I envisaged being able to live as a painter without thinking of return to Japan' (L. T. Foujita quoted in S. Buisson, op. cit, p. 60).

    As a poor artist and with the limited supply of materials he had during wartime, Foujita was only able to buy inexpensive canvases and few pigments, which resulted in landscapes that were painted in colourless tones on a rough unprepared canvas, such as the present work Paysage de Paris, place du Tertre. He treated the canvas as Japanese batik, by layering the pigments thinly on top of each other. Although the black and grey colours give a sombre impression, the execution on the contrary, strongly reminds the viewer of the finesse and expressiveness of Japanese painting and calligraphy.

    The year 1917 became a turning point in Foujita's career, when he married fellow artist Fernande Barrey. It was through Fernande that Foujita became acquainted with the important art dealer Georges Chéron. He was the son-in-law of Edouard Devambez who represented Modigliani and Soutine at the time. After Chéron visited Foujita's studio they signed a contract and immediately organised two solo exhibitions. Galerie Devambez held his first exhibition in June that year. Immediately after this event, the demand for Foujita's work started to grow. Chéron testified to his collectors: 'As a great number of the watercolours exhibited have already been sold, by popular demand Foujita has promised that there will be a second exhibition before the end of the year.' (Georges Chéron quoted in S. Buisson, op. cit, p. 84). It became evident that Foujita's devotion to improving his technique had been well spent and finally lead him to success in 1917.

    Foujita today is still seen as one of the greatest visionaries of the 20th century, who with his idiosyncratic approach to painting intertwined the aesthetics of Eastern and Western Art. Paysage de Paris, place du Tertre is a key example from one of the artist's most productive and pivotal periods. Already in 1922, just a few years after its execution, the present work was featured in the established arts journal Feuillets d'art, and more recently in 2018, the work was included in a major retrospective Foujita, Peindre dans les années folles, which focused on these crucial early years in Paris.
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