Dinard, Palais des Arts et du Festival, Foujita, Le Maître Japonais de Montparnasse, 2004, no. 72, illustrated in the catalogue
L'Art d'aujourd'hui: Foujita, Paris, 1931, illustrated p. 31
Sylvie Buisson, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Paris, 2001, vol. II, no. 26.204, illustrated p. 235
In 1921, seven years after he arrived in Paris and ten years after graduating from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, Foujita introduced into his oeuvre two characteristics which would come to define his work: the nude and his famous fond blanc. The latter was secretly concocted in his personal laboratory, a result of his desire to represent what he considered the most beautiful of materials, human skin. This technique, which juxtaposes a polished snowy ground with arabesque linear drawing, is inherently linked with Foujita's first masterpieces: a stunningly original series of nudes.
Foujita exhibited his first fond blanc Nu at the 1921 Salon d'Automne and continued to paint similar subjects throughout the 1920s. The present work, painted in 1926, is an important example in this vein that achieves both subtlety and cohesion through its elegant linearity and porcelain-like background. For the exquisite modelling of the figure and drapery, Foujita employed various materials including ash probably applied with a rag, evoking the estompe technique of his graphic work.
The sitters are Youki, a Belgian model with whom Foujita became acquainted in Montparnasse in 1921, and her friend Mado Anspach. Youki's real name was Lucie Badoul, but Foujita christened her Youki ('snow' in his native Japanese), and she was immortalised as such in the magnificent, Youki, Déesse de la neige, exhibited to great acclaim at the Salon d'Automne of 1924. As Sylvie and Doninique Buisson have noted, for Foujita 'Youki was, in effect, seductiveness, charm, happiness, intelligence and generosity personified...' (S. & D. Buisson, La vie et l'oeuvre de Leonard-Tsuguharu Foujita, Paris, 1987, p. 108). In 1929, just as Foujita left Youki for Mady Lequeux, so Youki became the poet Robert Desnos' wife. For her part, Mado became André Derain's lover.
In its economy and refinement, Les deux amies (Youki et Mado) reveals not only Foujita's successful conquest of a traditional Western subject, but also the effectiveness of his fond blanc technique in conveying a sense of the delicacy of human skin and the texture of drapery. Beyond its aesthetic significance, this work also represents a deeply personal hommage to the purity, youth and beauty of both Youki and Mado.
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