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Les deux amies (Two Friends)

Les deux amies (Two Friends)
signed in Japanese; signed and dated 'Foujita 1926' (middle right)
oil and ink on canvas
31.4 x 38.4 cm. (12 3/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1926
Fletcher Gallery, New York, USA
This work is accompanied by the certificate of authenticity issued by Sylvie Buisson.

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1926 by French-Japanese artist Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Les deus amies (Two Friends) depicts two nudes. Foujita used simple, delicate black lines to delineate the facial features of the two women in this painting, while accentuating the flatness of the composition through his use of a limited colour palette. The painting also suggests a sense of primitivism, evidence of the artist's travel to Paris in 1913, where at the height of Post-Impressionism, Foujita met and befriended a number of major painters of the day, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Chaïm Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani. The fine-lined brushwork and subtle modulation of color in Les deus amies (Two Friends), provides a contrast to the powerfully expressive eyes of the two figures which convey a sense of sincerity and melancholy. Les deus amies (Two Friends) is typical of Foujita's work during the 1920s, when female figures and cats in particular were favoured subjects of the artists.

Foujita's style of painting is comparable to Western Impressionism and Post Impressionism at the time. The artist graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he studied Western painting techniques. Despite being heavily influenced and inspired by Western art movements and Western artists during his time in Paris, Foujita created and retained his own original style by combining the Western medium of oil paint with Japanese ink techniques to execute his works. Using black pigment in paintings was a practice deliberately dismissed by Impressionist painters. This made Foujita's technique of combining his own white paint with traditional Japanese ink particularly extraordinary, eventually leading him to fame in Paris during the late 1920s. Unlike other Western artists at the time, Foujita would layer his canvas with white paint to create a flat and creamy background in order to reflect the pale, yet radiant skin tone of his female models. Using hues of grey ink, the artist incorporated light and shade into the composition in order to create volume and depth in his work. To overcome the difficulty in applying water-based ink onto oil-based paint, Foujita employed an innovative technique of spreading a thin layer of white powder onto white background; the powder created a surface which could absorb and fix the ink better on top of the oil painted layers. Furthermore, in many of Foujita's works depicting two female figures, he often painted one brunette and one blonde, as though to convey the convergence of the East and the West, implying the perfect harmony of Yin and Yang. In addition, the pose of the two nudes also implies a sense of closeness between the two figures, as one rests her head on the other's shoulder, conveying a sense of intimacy within the work.

Though the composition of Les deus amies (Two Friends) is minimal, it is the simple outline and colours used in the work that convey a subdued yet realistic interpretation of his models. Les deus amies (Two Friends) in its subject matter, medium, and technique is exemplary of the quintessential style Foujita worked to develop.

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