Property from the Family of Sylvaine Gay: Dancer, Muse and Friend of Foufou
by| 30 May 2014
The following four lots are coming directly from the family of Sylvaine Gay, a great friend of Foujita’s. Born Eugenie Augustine Perrodin, she was orphaned at a young age, and so grew up in the Paris Opera, an institution who frequently took in orphans at the time. She ended up growing into a great beauty, becoming a dancer and assuming the stage name Sylvaine Gay, the name she was to be well-known by until she married and was reinvented once again as Sylvaine Augustine Rouy. Sylvaine modelled often for the artist (see lot 187) and became a member of his inner circle of friends. Foujita was obviously extremely fond of her and missed her greatly once she left Paris, as the enchanting letters Foujita sent to her - one of which is illustrated to the left - clearly testify. They remained close friends and indeed he was a recurring figure in the childhood of Sylvaine’s daughter, also called Sylvaine (see lot 190): Foujita nicknamed the younger Sylvaine (the present owner) ‘Pousquette’ and, as a child, she referred to him as ‘Maman’s best friend, a Japanese painter with bangs like mine’.
Tokyo-born Tsuguharu Foujita moved to Paris in 1913 and, through his natural charm, easily integrated into the vibrant social scene of the Montparnasse-based artistic avant-garde. When he arrived there, knowing nobody, he quickly met Modigliani, Pascin, Soutine, and Léger and became friends with Gris, Picasso and Matisse. He even took dance lessons from the legendary Isadora Duncan who was also a friend of Sylvaine’s. He and his young wife Lucie Badard (who he met in 1921), hosted weekly parties for their friends and the artist’s extraordinary professional success afforded them a luxurious house and a lavish lifestyle, including such extravagances as a chauffeur-driven car and, much to the envy of all the other artists, a bathtub with hot running water. Lucie was known fondly to Foujita as simply ‘Youki’ and is referenced in one of his letters to Sylvaine: ‘come back quickly, your foufou is still waiting for you and I love you and I send you a thousand tender kisses to my Sylvaine. Youki sends you kisses too. Your foufou’ (Foujita, in a letter dated 30th June 1930). Sylvaine would have been right at home at these riotous artist parties as reports suggest she was quite the exhibitionist herself, once making a famously grand entrance into the Ritz hotel on horseback. The following four lots are testament to the pair’s great friendship and have remained in the family for almost eighty years.