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Charrette sur la Plage (Cart on the Beach)

Charrette sur la Plage (Cart on the Beach)
signed and inscribed in Japanese, signed 'T. Foujita' and dated '1917'
(lower right)
oil on canvas
33 x 41 cm. (13 x 16 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1917
Private Collection, Japan
S. Buisson, Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita Volume 2: Sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris, France, 2001 (illustrated in black and white, plate 17.81, p. 154).

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Lot Essay

"Foujita is indecisive, neither European nor Japanese tradition is dominant enough to prevail in his mind. During his first years of creation, he will be hesitant, triggering a period of uncertainty during which he paints either completely along Western tradition, or in pure Japanese style." Michel-Gabriel Vaucaire Through the mastery of his exquisitely fine, fluid and supple lines coupled with a unique display of shadowing, Foujita has surpassed Western and Japanese art conventions to create a unique aesthetic of his own. Indisputably one of the best painters in France and Japan of the 20th Century, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita is well acclaimed across Europe, America and Asia. After significant artistic training in Japan under Seiki Kuroda, both in traditional and Western traditions, he arrived in Paris in 1913, where he became a core member of the School of Paris. His buoyant character has made him a popular figure in the Parisian art community and he soon befriended artistic luminaries like Modigliani and Picasso, as well as popular cabaret models of the time. This season we are pleased to present three beautiful works, each highly representative of their category.
Charrette sur la plage (Lot 306) is one of the rare oils on canvas painted prior to 1918. The hardships of the World War I had brought financial difficulties, and Foujita was just starting to be known to the Parisian scene through art dealer Georges Chéron, who mainly encouraged him to paint watercolours and gouaches. In the footsteps of painter Henri Rousseau, Foujita spent most of his early career painting primitive grey urban landscapes. Between 1913 and 1918, Foujita painted several oil landscape using that particular aesthetic, where each landscape element is delineated by crisp lines contrasting with soft hues of greys, browns and whites. Charrette sur la plage is a beautiful example of Foujita's early works and demonstrates the artist's early interest of the line in relation to volume.
After twenty years in Paris, and following a wave of success, Foujita takes off for South America with dancer and model Madeleine Lequeux, leaving behind his wife Youki and escaping fiscal difficulties. The couple began their expedition with Brazil in the Autumn 1931. Painted in 1932, Untitled (Lot 304) depicts a young black man, casually sitting on a bench with a dog. Here, the painting displays a delicate gradation casted by shadow and the depiction of human figure and texture. By utilising traditional Japanese painting materials such as menso (fine brushes), nikawa (animal glue) and sumi (ink), he produces an ivory white unprecedented in Western art history. This distinct colour was termed as le grand fond blanc in French. Ivory white paired with grey shadows invoke a sculptural impression to the figures. In addition, Foujita applied oil paint with white mother-of-pearl powder, giving the work a silky glaze, with a smooth texture and a light translucency unseen of in oil painting. Untitled however distinguishes itself from his Parisian nude ivory white paintings: the colour of the man's skin creates a subtle and soft contrast, bringing the viewer's attention to the relaxed pose of the figure, caught in a moment of contemplative rest. His dog, in comparison, sits still and powerful, keeping close guard on his master's surroundings. While the artist used to convey volume through subtle and sporadic areas of stylized shadowing on white background, here, the three-dimensionality of the body is depicted through traditional techniques of shadowing. Unlike Foujita's other portraits from his travels across South America, Untitled offers an exquisite portrait focusing on natural posture and facial expression -of both man and dog- rather than costume and cultural characteristics.
Fouj i t a's d rawi ngs por t ray ing cat s demonstrated his deft skill and artistic cultivation. They also formed the cornerstone of several celebrated paintings, each carrying important historical meaning. From very early stage in his career, the artist identified cats as a representation of himself: sensual and agile, independent and socially clever, they gracefully and silently mark their own territory. Kitten Resting (Lot 305) is a beautiful example of Foujita's ease with the depiction of cats. Through seemingly simple strokes, Foujita imbues the nuances of his inner emotions and the subject matter onto the drawing, demonstrating the capacity of lines to express delicate affections and thoughts. These three works we proudly offer today confirm Foujita's unrivelled skills throughout the exploration of various subject matters and media.

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