Fillette aux fruits et au damier

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  • Provenance

    Wally Findlay Gallery, Chicago
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1958)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Daniel Malingue Gallery, Maitres Impressionnistes et Modernes, 25 April - 15 June 1985, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Sylvie and Dominique Buisson, Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita: Volume 1, Paris, 1987, no. 58.34, pp. 255, 520 (illustrated in colour and full page, p.255; illustrated, p. 520)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “As a reaction to the violent times, I imagined a few very tender subjects, even very childish, one could say”. Foujita on the occasion of his first exhibition at Paul Pétrides gallery, 24 March – 8 April 1950

    “All these little fairies-girls bear the same forehead as smooth as silk! They are solemn. Their wide pupils show an empty fixedness, bottomless wells in which maybe remains some inexpressive knowledge, in front of which we lower our eyes such as in the gaze of newborns”. Robert Rey on the occasion of Foujita’s first exhibition at Paul Petrides gallery, 24 March – 8 April 1950, quoted in Foujita, Sylvie and Dominique Buisson, ACR editions, p.220

    This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita’s death and this occasion has led to a number of events and exhibitions celebrating the artist, as well as affording a closer examination of his life and work. These events included an important exhibition, focusing on the interwar period, at the Musée Maillol in Paris and a travelling retrospective exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto.

    The Japanese-born artist had first moved to Paris at the age of 26, decades before he painted Fillette aux fruits et au damier and shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. There, he made his name, establishing his own artistic style and achieved great fame alongside his friends and fellow émigrés artists of the École de Paris such as Amedeo Modigliani, Moïse Kisling and Chaïm Soutine. In 1950, returning to France after a number of years abroad, including some spent in his native Japan, Foujita settled there permanently, acquiring French nationality in 1955. His style and subject matter during the 1950s take a very distinctive turn and, as in Fillette aux fruits et au damier, plunge the viewer into a world of children rich with allusions and symbols about Foujita’s personal life. The quintessential Parisian everyday life is depicted in the present work through the typically French geometric black and white marble flooring, as though Foujita was assimilating and immersing himself fully into his newfound nationality, yet he retains a nostalgic longing for the home of his youth through the juxtaposition of the steel chairs. While these chairs would call to mind the bistro cafes in the streets of Paris, they were in fact placed in Foujita’s home in Tokyo during the war.

    Foujita had long been interested in the theme of children, but this came even more to the fore with the imaginary youths depicted in the compositions executed throughout the 1950s. Usually depicting young girls, in a variety of guises and situations, they often share features with the one shown in Fillette aux fruits et au damier. In Small Housewife (1956), the resemblance is striking between the main character and the little girl in the present work. Foujita created an entire sequence of works showing the characters of the Parisian street such as fishmongers and beggars, reimagined as children. But perhaps more evidently, in Fillette aux fruits et au damier, the girl clearly relates to the central figure in his large-scale painting, one of the most ambitious compositions of 1958; L’âge mécanique, now in the collection of the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. In that work, the girl is placed on the floor in the same position and attire, holding a toy robot between her legs, rather than fruits; surrounded by contemporaries playing with objects from the worlds of both adulthood and childhood, from sewing machines and vacuum cleaners to toy trains, cranes and aircraft.

    Fillette aux fruits et au damier was itself one of a sequence of paintings showing a girl surrounded by fruits or vegetables. Amid the figs, peaches, bananas, and apples, the present work calls to mind the still-life painting genre that flourished in the early 1600s, such as Frans Synders’ Still Life with Fruits and Vegetables (c.1700), and through Foujita’s meticulous rendering of these allegorical elements with utmost precision, there is a distinctive aesthetic appeal which simultaneously carries a decorative function. It alludes to the abundance of life with the fruits and vegetables that come from the earth, and the artist continuously explores this theme in his series. Another important example is in the Pola Museum of Art, Hakone, which dates from 1963, five years later, showing the enduring importance of the subject to Foujita. In each of these works, the girl engages the viewer with a direct, ever-knowing but somehow peaceful gaze. Having had excessive involvement and astounding diligence during the Second World War to create hundreds of documentary war oil paintings, watercolours and drawings, his oeuvre after the war years marked a personal and artistic shift for the artist. Returning to Paris in February 1950, Foujita let his brush linger over the relics of pre-war Paris – historic streetscapes, the advance of the new age, and more importantly, the world of children – perhaps a nostalgia he had for pre-war peace and innocence. He surrounded himself with representations of imaginary scenes returning to an incarnation of innocence as well as a stylistic return to techniques which had first led him to fame: his signature milky whites and the use of a very thin Japanese brush to create painstakingly meticulous and delicate lines.

    Looking closely, the world of children engaged in innocent play appears more subtle, complex and ambiguous. As reflected by the presence of the overtly fecund fruit that surrounds the little girl, Fillette aux fruits et au damier appears to be a deeper, multi-layered exploration of fertility from a man who never had any children of his own but who constantly looked to them as models for his paintings throughout his career. Imaginary sitters, painted children, that grace his canvases, all stem from this world of fantasy which Foujita created where these innocent and poetic creatures engage in an adult world, as seen in the L'age mécanique and as he sees himself. On a personal level, these little girls, all bearing the same features, remind us of the antique doll collection Foujita had in his studio. In wax or porcelain, dressed in old-fashion costumes, they were installed on the mezzanine of his studio on Rue Campagne-Première in Paris. Seen from below, this perspective accentuated the curve of the breast, deepened the eyes, and elongated the neck, all of which explains the delicate boundary between reality and imaginary scenes at play in Foujita’s compositions as well as his return to his distinctive technique and translucent style.

    In the 1950s, Foujita goes back to his meticulously and painstakingly detailed style. Usually using the customary white background that he had developed years earlier and which lend his paintings such a unique, opalescent luminosity. This extends to the girl’s skin, which has a pale glow. Despite being painted in oils with fine brushes, Fillette aux fruits et au damier evokes a work on paper in its colouring. In this way, Foujita manages to balance a sense of spontaneity with that of the stillness of the scene he has shown. At the same time, he also recalls the art of Japan. Foujita explained that he had, ‘lived in Tokyo till the age of 25, then in Paris for 20 years. I was raised in Japan, but my painting grew up in France. I’ve got family in Japan and friends in France. So now I have two native countries. I’m an international person. I feel nostalgia for two countries’ (Foujita in M. Guillemot & J. Doherty, trans., Foujita: Paroles d'artiste, Lyon, 2018, p. 42.) In Fillette aux fruits et au damier, that melding of cultures is embodied in the colour of the canvas itself, which recalls both the Japanese prints that had had such an impact upon the artists of Paris at the turn of the 20th century, but also of porcelain. A delicate and very personal work in its theme and composition, this work is indeed the perfect receptacle in which the fusion of all the life experiences and stylistic evolutions of Foujita takes place.

  • Catalogue Essay

    「作為對暴力時期的回應,我想了幾個非常稚嫩,甚至可以說是幼稚的題材。」藤田嗣治於自己在Paul Pétrides 畫廊首次展覽時所講,1950年3月24日至4月8日

    「這些小精靈女孩的額頭都如絲般光滑,莊重十分。寬大的瞳孔透出空洞的凝視,像是無底泉源,蘊藏著不外露的知識,面對此像,我們如面對初生嬰兒的目光般,不由得低下頭來。」Robert Rey 在藤田嗣治在 Paul Pétrides 畫廊首次展覽時所講,1950年3月24日至4月8日,錄於《藤田嗣治》,Sylvie and Dominique Buisson 著,ACR editions,220頁


    藤田嗣治在日本出生,26歲時移居巴黎,那是距離他創作此幅《女孩與果子和菱格紋》數十年前,當時第一次世界大戰爆發在即。他在巴黎創出一番名號,建立起屬於自己的藝術風格,並與莫迪利安尼、莫依斯 · 基斯林、蘇丁等來自各國的巴黎畫派藝術家得到廣泛好評,家喻戶曉。藤田嗣治曾花費數年遊走各國,包括其故國日本,後於1950年回到巴黎定居,1955年取得法國國籍。其1950年代的藝術風格和題材出現明顯轉變,如《女孩與果子和菱格紋》般,把觀者一下帶入孩童的世界,滿是有關藤田嗣治個人生活的各種暗示和符號。此幅作品中的典型法國風格之黑白幾何大理石地面突顯了巴黎日常生活的精髓,好像藤田嗣治已經完全適應並投入到自己新的國籍中,但其實他仍然表現出對故鄉的思念,畫中的鋼條椅子便是代表,雖然這種椅子在巴黎街頭小餐館很常見,但它們也是戰爭期間藤田嗣治在東京家中使用的椅子。




    在1950年代,藤田嗣治回歸其嚴密複雜的精細畫風。通常以前些年逐漸形成的白色背景令畫面呈現獨有的乳白色光感,並延伸至小女孩的皮膚,令膚色散發出淡淡的光潤。《女孩與果子和菱格紋》是一幅細筆刷繪出的油畫,但它的色彩卻有著紙本作品的效果,如此一來,藝術家得以在偶然自發性和場景的寂靜之間取得平衡。與此同時,藝術家不忘日本藝術。藤田嗣治曾解釋道:「在25歲以前住在日本,然後在巴黎生活了20年。我在日本長大,但我的畫作在法國成長。我在日本有家人,在法國有朋友。所以現在我有兩個故鄉,是個國際人,也有了兩份鄉愁」(藤田於M. Guillemot與J. Doherty譯,〈Foujita: Paroles d'artiste〉, 里昂, 2018年, 第42頁)。在《女孩與果子和菱格紋》,畫面的色調體現出兩種文化的融合,既有二十世紀初風靡巴黎藝術家的日本版畫影響,亦有陶瓷的影子。此作品之題材和構圖都十分細膩親暱,完美融匯藤田嗣治一生經歷與藝術風格之演進。

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Fillette aux fruits et au damier

signed and dated 'Foujita 58' lower centre
oil on canvas
46 x 33 cm. (18 1/8 x 12 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1958, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Sylvie Buisson.

HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 

sold for HK$8,140,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018