Born in Tokyo in 1886, Foujita first arrived in Paris in 1913, where he would spend most of his life. He immersed himself in the artistic scene of the city, while his careful examination of the art of his Western predecessors and contemporaries led him to move beyond the academic constraints he had previously known. ‘I, who did not even know the names Cézanne and Van Gogh, now opened my eyes to look out in a radically different direction. I saw that my artistic education up to then had been confined to the artistic styles of one or two people… I suddenly realised that I should forge ahead, with a completely different spirit, to break new grounds with my ideas. That day I threw my box of painting materials down on the floor, realising that I had to start all over again from the beginning’ (quoted in P. Birnbaum, Glory in a Line, A Life of Foujita, The Artist Caught Between East and West, New York, 2006, p. 36).
At the end of 1931, in order to escape a creative draught caused by the departure of Youki, his lover, Foujita set off to South America. By April 1933, he had visited the whole continent, from Brazil to Mexico via Peru and Ecuador. The busy streets that welcomed him there served as a crucial source of inspiration for the artist, who found himself drawn to the local crowd. He would often take snapshots of the scenes or the people he came across during his wanderings, which would then serve as the basis for his compositions. At the same time, Foujita started using a more varied palette, adding vibrant hues such as deep reds and unusual turquoise blues. All of these elements characterise Les deux boliviens, which the artist executed in the summer of 1932, when he travelled to Bolivia from neighbouring Argentina.