Zuguharu Fujita (Jap. 藤田 嗣 治 Fujita Zuguharu, fr. Tsuguharu Fujita, also Léonard Foujita — Leonard Fujita, also Léonard Fujita; November 27, 1886, Tokyo — January 29, 1968, Zurich) — master of painting and graphics, close to the "Paris School"; Japanese by origin; one of the brightest characters of the European bohemian environment of the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Features of the artist Tsuguharu Fujita: the desire to rethink the Japanese pictorial tradition through the prism of Western European realism; adherence to figurativeness; the stinginess of the color palette, which is dominated by pearl shades of white and deep earthy tones; the synthesis of painting and graphic means — calligraphic stroke, spots, lines. Fujita had a special passion for portraying women, children, cats, interiors, as well as self-portrait. His works are distinguished by a veiled symbolism of plots, a certain naivety of pictorial manner, flatness of volumes and a small depth of space. Curiously, the European types of Fujita interpreted in accordance with the understanding of beauty inherent in the native of Japan — most of the portrayed alabaster skin, large heads, tiny mouths, miniature hands and feet, almond-shaped eyes.
Among the modernists of the first quarter of the twentieth century, Fujita stands alone.
If he belongs to this circle, then rather, by coincidence of time, place and mutual sympathy, but not according to the method of work. Short-term, superficial enthusiasm for the ideas of cubists, futurists, surrealists left few noticeable traces in his creative heritage. The real revelation for the son of the Land of the Rising Sun was a realistic approach to the artistic reflection of reality — in Japan, isolated from the rest of the world for centuries, they did not know it. Nevertheless, the artist did not strive to merge and fully identify himself with Western culture — by absorbing its values, he cultivated his own unique features both in art and in everyday life, remaining Japanese in his attitude. "I love Tokyo very much, but being able to lead a foreigner’s life in Paris gives me the necessary detachment to understand myself," wrote Fujita.
Famous works of Tsuguharu Fujita: "Self-portrait with a cat", "In the cafe", "Reclining Nude" ("Portrait of Nude Kiki"), "Sleep", numerous nudes, portraits, images of cats and children.
World heir from the Wisteria Valley
Tsuguharu comes from a noble samurai family, his primordial surname Fujita is translated as "the field of wisteria", and the name — as "heir to the world." He was born in the family of a general, doctor of the imperial army Tsuguakira Fujita. Mother died when Tsuguharu turned five. The ability to draw the boy showed at the age of six, and later, at school, he became interested in painting. In Tokyo, there was also an acquaintance with Western art, which made an indelible impression on Tsuguhara.
In 1904, the young man became a student at the Tokyo Graduate School of Fine Arts. Dreaming of being in Paris, the center of intellectual and cultural life, he simultaneously proceeds to the study of French. At the age of twenty-five, having received a diploma and with the consent of his father, Tsuguharu gets married; Tomiko Hieda, a student of the same school, becomes his chosen one. Ahead of the story, we note that the habit of marrying did not leave Tsuguhara all his life, and Tomiko was the first, but not the last of his wife.
The young master receives the first recognition, his landscapes are favorably received by the public in the Tokyo exhibition halls, and the future promises bright prospects. But thoughts about going to the arts Mecca still aggravate Tsuguhara’s soul, and the father goes to meet him, agreeing to provide financial support, provided that his son returns home in three years. June 8, 1913 Fujita goes on a long voyage that ends in Marseilles. Having reached Paris, Zuguharu is happy to plunge into the exciting whirlpool of life in the capital.
Conquered by Paris, conquered Paris …
Almost on the very first day of his stay in the French capital, Fujita found himself in a cafe "Rotonda" and "Dome" - the favorite places of the gatherings of "daring geniuses of Montparnasse", which included Pablo Picasso, George braque, Fernand Leger, Juan Gris, Henri Matisse, Diego Rivera, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau and many, many other representatives of the creative avant-garde. It did not take him a lot of effort to get into this circle and instantly get comfortable in it — the exotic appearance, funny accent and cheerful disposition relished the local regulars.
Zuguharu settled in Montparnasse in the house-colony Cité Falgières, also known as the "Villa of Roses" In 1913 a motley International lived here:Amedeo Modigliani from Italian Livorno, sculptor Jacques Lipschitz, who came from Lithuania, a native of a Belarusian town Chaim Soutine. Artists quickly found a common language and became close friends. Unable to pronounce the difficult native name Tsuguhara, the new friends call him Leonar, the name is also altered to the French style — henceforth it is for them Fujita.
The Paris Autumn Salon of 1913 causes Tsuguhara to thrill and confusion — by all means, he should also be exhibited in these halls! Fujita frantically gets to work. He copies canvases of old masters in the Louvre, studies the monuments of antiquity, under the influence of his comrades of the brush "tries to taste"cubism and futurism, but, dissatisfied with itself, under the hot hand destroys almost everything that was done during this period. Yet the young artist irresistibly attracts realistic, figurative art. It is expensive to work with oil, but money is scarce, and partly for this prosaic reason Fujita plunges into graphics, writes a lot with ink, watercolor, draws with a graphite pencil.
In the meantime, the agreed three-year trip for the three seas expires — and Fujita sends a letter to her father informing him of his decision to stay in France and refuse material aid. The official divorce from Tomiko has already been filed. Zuguharu hurriedly marries the half-light lady Fernanda Barry and unexpectedly finds in her person an active promoter. It is possible to consider Fernanda’s merit in organizing the first personal exhibition Fujita (June 1917), at which over a hundred of his works were presented. Finally, the artist felt real success, including material. And in 1919, he first exhibited at the Salon! Three years later, Fujita will write a magnificent portrait of the lying nude Kiki, the "uncrowned Queen of Montparnasse", this work will create a real sensation in the Salon and will be sold on the very first day for a fabulous 8,000 francs.
A new stage begins in the life of Tsuguharu — and a new woman appears. Lucy Badu had so light, radiant and delicate skin that Fujita called her Japanese name Yuki, which translated means "snow". They were the brightest and most stylish couple in Paris, they organized countless parties, and photo reporters hunted them. The artist is at the zenith of fame, in 1925 he received the Order of Leopold from Belgium and became a knight of the French Legion of Honor. Spouses take a trip to her husband’s homeland, visit Kumamoto, Kyoto and Tokyo. After returning, they are destined to a couple more years of almost cloudless life, but by 1931 the family union is collapsing. Lucy leaves for Robert Desnos, a journalist, a surrealist poet and a mystic — they were three friends for a long time, but this "surrealistic triangle" was forced to disintegrate. During this period, symbols of death and disturbing colors appear in the works of Fujita. Biographers and researchers are inclined to believe that in this way the depressive moods of the artist and the latent thirst for revenge were manifested.
Years of throwing and wandering
In 1931, Zuguhara went on a world tour, stretching for several years — the USA, the countries of Central and South America, China, Indochina, and native Japan. The 25-year-old model, Madeleine Leke, also known as Madi Dorman, Fujita’s fresh passion, became a companion on the journey — and the fourth wife. Exhibitions are extremely successful, in Buenos Aires alone, about 60 thousand people got acquainted with the artist’s work. Zuguharu is full of energy and impressions, works a lot, writes travel notes, and the exposures bring tangible material fruits. Unfortunately, the idyll does not last long: in 1936, in Tokyo, Madeleine leaves her lover, dying from an overdose of cocaine.
As soon as the artist returns to Europe, as the second world war begins. In May 1940, fleeing from the war, he travels back to Japan, and there — about the irony of samurai by blood, as an artist by vocation! — gets into military service, where he creates monumental and easel works, as well as propaganda posters promoting Japanese militarism. And he does it with considerable enthusiasm. For this reason, many of his fellow citizens will later turn away from him, and by the end of the post-war decade, Fujita will once again leave his homeland, this time forever. He is accompanied by Kimiyo Horiuchi, who is narrowed down to become the fifth and last muse of the artist.
Having reached France, Zuguharu seems to be returning to a past life, to old friends and former subjects — women, cats, children … In 1955, spouses receive French citizenship. And in 1959, both join the Catholic Church through the rite of baptism, which takes place in the Reims Cathedral, and Tsuguharu takes on the baptism of the long-familiar name of Leonard.
Since 1961, the Fujita couple have moved to Villa-le-Buckle, 30 km from Paris, and lead a peaceful country life with pleasure. Now in this house of the 18th century there is a museum of the artist, open to the public — as bequeathed by the master. In 1964−66 Fujita realizes his dream — the construction and design of the chapel in Reims, under which he specifically allocated the site. The artist participates in the design, as well as painting the interiors of the chapel with frescoes and decorates with stained glass windows. The chapel, named Notre-Dame-de-la-Pee (Blessed Virgin of the World), will be the last refuge of the master, who died in 1968 at the age of 81 years. Kimiyo will be buried next to him in 2009, and now this place is called "Fujita Chapel".
Until 2008, Fujita remained the most expensive Japanese artist. The most significant collections of his works are represented in the collections of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Reims Museum of Fine Arts, as well as in numerous museum exhibitions in the master’s homeland.
Author: Leah Gorodianskaya