Foujita’s Year in the Sun

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Art Journal

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Stop just about anyone on the street in Paris or Tokyo and they will know the name Foujita. Do this in any American city, even in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, where in the 1920s and early 1930s Foujita was a known, exotic personality—and you will draw a blank stare. The fascinating life story of the peripatetic international Japanese artist Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886–1968) so rivals pulp fiction (rich art student, the toast of Paris, five wives, cat lover, wild parties, fascist war artist, political scapegoat, Christian penitent …) that it became the subject of Kohei Oguri’s film Foujita (2015).1 Unfortunately, Foujita’s life consistently overtakes and obscures the value of his contributions to global modernism and modern Japanese art. Four exhibitions marking the year 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of Foujita’s death from cancer in a Zurich hospital, attempted to correct this imbalance. Although none traveled internationally, taken collectively they succeed in manifesting the staggering depth and breadth of Foujita’s extensive oeuvre in addition to chronicling his often extreme transitions from period to period. Collectively, they demonstrate the extraordinary range of Foujita’s technical skills over a multitude of media. Furthermore, his expressive abilities as a draftsman and portraitist, his intuitive understanding of all living things (as well as his gift at animating the inanimate, such as a half-smoked package of Gauloises or a tiny bisque doll), and his choice of subjects—now humorous, now violent, now tender—all come into focus.

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Art, Japanese


Asian Art and Architecture | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology




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