PORTRAITS OF THE RENAISSANCE - LEONARD TSUGUHARU FOUJITA
Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita was born in Tokyo in 1886, and travelled the world from a young age with his father, who was a military doctor, on the latter's missions abroad. This exposure cultivated the artist's romantic and carefree personality, and while he learned his basics at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Paris was the city that truly shaped his style and expression. Foujjita explored a broad array of themes including portraiture, landscapes, still life, and animals. He developed a strong foundation in Japan and built upon it with travels in Paris, the Americas, Latin America, and Asia; his works amalgamate international cultures and exotic experience, with his self-portraits and portraits being especially whimsical and full of life. These portraits have been painted on tracing paper, Japanese washi paper, drawing boards, cardboard, kraft paper, and many other media due to Foujita's experimental spirit, but whatever the medium, he always manages to accurately and precisely depict the subjects' spirit and minutiae. In 1955 he became a naturalised French citizen, and in 1959 he became a member of the Catholic church. In 1960, Foujita painted Girl with Folded Hands (Fillette aux mains jointes) at the age of 74, and his works from this period often have a religious theme. This painting carries the calm serenity that is common in Renaissance portraits, and the subject's gesture also hint at religion and belief.
A SERENE PORTRAIT, FOLDED HANDS, AND THE SYMBOLISM OF THE CHURCH
Foujita's work has an abundance of lyrical expressionism that is common to the Parisian School during the 1920s, stylized as a Renaissance portrait as well as Renaissance fashion with the girl wearing a headscarf and a simple form-fitting top and flowing dress. Her hands are lightly clasped to highlight Foujita's dedication to religion without losing a jovial tone, and the church behind the girl is clearly more than a simple background – it is an important part of the composition. At a time when artists scampered towards Modernism, Foujita went against the flow used his own vocabulary to establish a retro and gentle tone, his fluid and delicate touch settling the girl in a peaceful and serene world like basking in sunlight on a brisk winter day.