Leonard T. Foujita

Tokio, 1886 - Zurich 1968

A painter, designer, decorator and illustrator of Japanese origin, but nationalized French, Foujita was revered in the 30s for equally his exoticism and his originality. A friend of Picasso and of Modigliani, he worked his two favourite themes – the woman and cats, with a drawing style reminiscent of Japanese tradition.

A fringe, an earring, small round glasses and a minute moustache always were his presentation card.

A descendent of an ancient Samurai saga, in 1886, he was fortunate enough to be born into a family open to western culture.

At the age of 19, he was accepted into the Tokyo Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, but his dream was to know Paris where he installed himself in 1913, just one year previous to the First World War. After a parenthesis of three years exile in London, he returned to Montparnasse where he met Picasso, Marc Chagall, Soutine, Modigliani ... and Diego Rivera. In only a few months he was to win the admiration of the bohemian quarter, for the subtlety of his painting, for his refined education and for his attractive and extravagant appearance. He became the painter most in fashion in the Paris School. He married who was to be his great love, Lucie Badoud, but she left him for a poet. Foujita dedicated himself to travel and went all over the world, accompanying the presentations of his works. Brasil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Cuba ... and Japan itself ... were some of the countries where he exhibited his painting, always with notable success.

During the Second World War he converted into the official artist of the Japanese Empire. But in the 50s, fed up with violence that he witnessed in his country, he decided to go back to France. There, after having had a mystic vision in the city of Reims, he converted to Catholicism.

His last great work was a chapel in that city in which he designed the architecture, the stained glass windows, the precious metal work, the forging and the sculptures, painting nearly one hundred square metres of frescos in its interior.

His remains were to finally rest there.

“I think that felines have been given to men in order that at their side, they can obtain the learning of a woman.” With these words, Foujita expressed the great predilection that he felt for this animal, which he was wont to incorporate in his self portraits. A link of trust, of intimacy and of absolute faithfulness unites him to it ...could it be, replacing what he did not have with the women in his life?

Exhibited Works

  • “Autoportrait au chat”, drypoint on vellum-like paper, circa 1925.