Foujita’s Girl with Parakeets Painting That Seamlessly Combines Eastern Japanese and Western styles

Following the sale of Foujita’s record-setting painting last month in London, Bonhams’ upcoming Impressionist and Modern Art Sale will be highlighted by another prime example by the artist. Painted in 1957, Fillette aux perruches is a brilliantly coloured depiction of a young girl with parakeets from the artist's mature oeuvre.

Photograph of the artist in his studio circa 1957

The son of a general in the Japanese Imperial Army, Foujita moved to France in 1913 at the age of 27 after studying at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He settled in Montparnasse, a district favoured by infamously bohemian artists. It was in Paris where Foujita became one of the most famous figures of the School of Paris and developed a career by blending two distinct cultures. It was not until Foujita visited Renoir in southern France in 1918, that he began regularly experimenting with oil paints, attempting to express the elegant quality of Eastern painting in this newfound medium, and to invoke the aesthetic lines of watercolour while using oils.

Another Foujita's painting of Fillette Aux Perruches. Circa 1955.

In 1930, Foujita concluded his first Paris period and set off to travel the world. Foujita returned to Paris in the early 1950s and began the work of his second Paris period. During his second Paris period, Foujita drew inspiration from his everyday life, shifting his focus from the sensual nudes of the 20s and 30s to paintings featuring children and young girls. Although Foujita had no children of his own, the artist enjoyed playing with young children and was interested in conveying their aura of innocence and purity.

The present Foujita's Fillette Aux Perruches to be offered at Bonhams New York

In the present work, Foujita's adolescent girl is innocent and meditative, her large, blank eyes inextricably fixed upon the viewer. Her gaze and form are nevertheless delicately charged as she playfully holds two birds in her hands. The youthful girl depicted in Fillette aux perruches exudes a charming innocence, while also possessing the elegance characteristic of traditional portrait paintings.

The girl is depicted with her large, blank eyes inextricably fixed upon the viewer

She playfully holds two birds in her hands

The use of colour in this painting also showcases the bright colours characteristic of Foujita's mature period. The girl's skin is a bright luster of ivory white and exhibits the artist's iconic style of the 1920s.

Leonardo da Vinci. Lady with an Ermine. 1489-90. The National Museum, Krakow

Fillette aux perruches is a quintessential example of the artist's ability to seamlessly blend his Japanese origins with the classicism of the great Western masters. Foujita converted to Catholicism toward the end of his life and adopted the name Léonard following his baptism in October 1959. Foujita took the Christian name Léonard as a tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, an artist whose masterpiece Lady with an Ermine (1489-90) was undoubtedly a key inspiration for the present work.

Édouard Manet. Jeune femme. 1866. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. La femme à la perruche. 1871. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

In addition to Leonardo da Vinci, Foujita was also inspired by the Impressionist master Pierre-August Renoir, whom he visited in the south of France in 1918, and Édouard Manet. Both Renoir and Manet were renowned for their paintings of young women, and both painted large scale works depicting women with their pet birds.

Foujita’s La fête d'anniversaire

Fillette aux perruches will go under the hammer at Bonhams New York in November and it is expected to fetch between US$300,000-500,000. Last month, Foujita’s La fête d'anniversaire was sold at Bonhams London for £7,096,250, a new auction record for the artist.


Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968). Fillette aux perruches

Lot no.: 17
Size: 33.3 x 22.2 cm
Painted in: 1956
Galerie J. Le Chapelin, Paris.
Paul Pétridès, Paris.
Private collection, Hillsborough, California (acquired in the late 1950s).
Thence by descent.
Estimate: US$300,000-500,000

Auction details
Auction house: Bonhams New York
Sale: Impressionist & Modern Art
Date: 13 November 2018|5pm