Tsuguharu Foujita (1886 – 1967)

Tsuguharu Foujita portrait

Tsuguharu Foujita, later known as Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, was a Japanese painter recognized for his western-style impressionist works. Born in Tokyo, he studied at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. In 1910 he received various medals and awards, and the emperor even bought one of his works. Another of his achievements was being invited to Korea in 1911 to portray the king.

Tsuguharu Foujita Self Portrait

Foujita seemed destined for a lucrative in the East, until he decided in 1912 to travel to London and in 1913 to Paris. There he discovered contemporary European art, just as the French in the mid-18th century had discovered Japanese painting. His paintings are by paris scenes and the suburbs. His art is exhibited in various galleries, and little by little he manages to synthesize oriental calligraphy and western art. During his twenties he developed a technique that uses ivory paint, through clear lines that proliferate with brilliant outlines. Paints at that time still lifes, nudes, self-portraits and cats. It also covers mundane subjects, as well as religious paintings on gold backgrounds.

Tsuguharu Foujita Café detail

Foujita’s first exhibition in Paris opened in 1917, followed by another in 1924, when he was already one of the most important artists in the world. Salon d’Automne. That same year, he was selected as a member of the Tokyo Academy of Fine Arts, as he was the first to liberate Japanese art from its classic and ancient image.

Tsuguharu Foujita painting detail 3

Foujita was selected to decorate the Japanese House in the Cite Universitaire from Paris. He traveled to England, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the United States, where he studied until 1939. After the outbreak of the Second World War he returned to Paris, where he lived until 1941. The next nine years he would spend in Tokyo. Then he dedicates himself to painting murals, and becomes artistic attaché and official painter of the Ministry of the Navy. There he serves his country through his art, painting scenes of war or victory for the Japnese army.

Tsuguharu Foujita painting detail

After the war he returned to Paris again, where he devoted himself to painting and working in charitable works as president of the Association of Japanese Artists. Foujita died in Zurich at the age of 81 and was buried in Rheims, where he had decorated the chapel after converting to Catholicism. As one of the oldest members of the School of Paris, Foujita was friends with Braque, Picasso and Rousseau, who subtly influenced his style. Foujita built a bridge between Western and Eastern art, with his works of clear lines and grayish and pale colors.