Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita
27.11.1886 (Tokyo, Japan) - 29.01.1968 (Zurich, Switzerland)

Nationality: Japanese


Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita was born in Edogowa, Tokio (Japan) on November 27, 1886. In 1910, when he was twenty-four years old, Foujita graduated from what is now the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Three years later he went to Montparnasse in Paris, France, where he had a studio in the artist quarter of Montparnasse. After arriving in Paris, knowing nobody, he met many artists and became friends with Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Foujita had his first studio at no. 5 rue Delambre in Montparnasse where he became the envy of everyone when he eventually made enough money to install a bathtub with hot running water. Many models visited Foujita's place to enjoy this luxury, among them Man Ray's uninhibited lover, Kiki, who boldly posed for Foujita in the nude in the outdoor courtyard. Another portrait of Kiki titled Reclining Nude with Toile de Jouy, shows her lying naked against an ivory-white background. It was the sensation of Paris at the Salon d'Automne in 1922, selling for more than 8,000 francs.

The new painting technique of Foujita was special, because he used French oil paint techniques in his Japanese style paintings. The base of his works was a transparent white colour, on which he painted very thinly. Within a few years, particularly after his 1918 exposition, he achieved great fame as a painter of beautiful women and cats with a truly original technique. He is one of the few Montparnasse artists with the achievement of making money in his early years. By 1925, Tsuguharu Foujita had received the Belgian Order of King Léopold I and the French government awarded him the Legion of Honour. In 1918, a trip to the south of France was organized by the Polish poet Leopold Zbowroski who imagined that his artist-friends could sell pictures there to rich tourists. Foujita and his wife went along as did Soutine and Modigliani with his lover Jeanne Hébuterne. The trip was not, however, a success and the group had to survive on the advances that Foujita obtained from his Paris dealer. By the time the final reckoning arrived the funds were depleted and their landlord, ignoring their worthless pieces of art, confiscated all their baggage in lieu of payment.

Foujita's last major work was the decoration of a chapel in Reims, France, which he completed in 1966, not long before his death. Tsuguharu Foujita died of cancer on January 29, 1968 in Zürich, Switzerland and was interred in the Cimetière de Villiers-Le-Bacle, Essonne departement, France.


Sylvie Buisson, Foujita, Vie et oeuvre, Vol. 1, Paris 1987;
Sylvie Buisson, Foujita, Vol. 2, Paris 2001;
Sylvie Buisson, Foujita, inédits, Vol. 3, (Nichido, Archives Artistiques) Paris 2007;
Sylvie Buisson, Foujita et ses Amis du Montparnasse, Paris 2010;
K. Niizeki, De Kuroda à Foujita: peintres japonais à Paris, Paris 2007


Retrospective Leonard Foujita, (The National Museum of Modern Art) Kyoto, Japan, 2007;
Foujita: mon Paris, mon atelier, (Pola Museum of Art) Kanagawa, Japan, 19 Mar. 2011-15 Jan. 2012 


Work by Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita is represented in the collections of diverse museums, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires and the Art Institue of Chicago.

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