Last October, a 1949 painting entitled La fête d'anniversaire by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita was sold for £7.09m at Bonhams in London, setting a new auction record for the Japanese-French artist. In the upcoming Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in London this October, the auction house presents another Foujita’s masterpiece with an estimate of £800,0000-1.2m. Depicted in the painting is Foujita’s lover and muse, Lucie Badoul, also known as Youki.
Nu aux mains croisées (1924) by Tsuguharu Foujita
Foujita left Japan aged 27 and arrived in Paris in 1913. Here he quickly immersed himself in the artistic circles of bohemian Montparnasse – his contemporaries were Matisse, Léger and Picasso. He gained widespread critical acclaim, selling every painting in his first solo exhibition in 1917, and his delicate and ethereal technique, perfected during his artistic training in Tokyo, set him apart from his French peers and their bold and colourful styles.
By Foujita’s side during his ascent was Lucie Badoul, his lover and muse since 1921, nicknamed ‘Youki’ (‘rose-snow’, for her pale skin). They married in 1924, the same year he painted this current painting Nu aux mains croisée, and although the shining white model in the painting is unnamed, it is thought to be Youki. The two were famed for their extravagant parties and became celebrities of the Parisian social scene.
Lucie Badoul and Tsuguharu Foujita
The painting itself is a testament to Foujita’s masterful Eastern technique with newfound Western subject matter. His exemplary draughtsmanship is reminiscent of traditional Japanese sumi-e (ink brush painting), and he formulated a personal technique to capture the cream colour of the nude’s skin, which he called nyuhakushoku (literally ‘whiteness of milk’). This involved layering a certain mixture of white ground or primer over the canvas, the specifications of which he never revealed.
Foujita was inspired by the Western canon of nude portraiture. He once said, “An idea struck me one day: there are only very few nudes in Japanese paintings... This is what encouraged me to paint nudes again, with the clear objective of depicting the most beautiful material that can be: human's skin.”
Foujita’s La fête d'anniversaire was sold for a record-breaking £7.09m
The market for Foujita paintings cooled down during the 1990-2000 period until recently. Foujita paintings are becoming more sought after by Asian buyers in recent years. Last October, Foujita’s La fête d'anniversaire was sold for £7.09m at Bonhams in London, far surpassing the presale estimate of £900,000-1.3m and setting a new auction record for the artist.
The sale marks the auction debut of Nu aux mains croisée after it has been kept in private hands for almost half a century. It will go on public display from 23 to 27 September in Bonhams Hong Kong before it goes on sale in London on 10 October for £800,000-1.2m.
Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968). Nu aux mains croisées
Created in: 1924
Size: 81 x 65.5cm
Auction house: Bonhams London
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art
Sale date: 10 October 2019
Hong Kong preview: 23-27 September 2019