Lot 441
  • 441

Tsuguharu Foujita

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita
  • Le Journal de Youki
  • sketchbook containing 109 sheets, of which 64 are illustrated, bound in a hardback cover. The sketches are executed in watercolour, brush and pen and ink and pencil on Japan paper. 
  • notebook size: 14.7 by 40.9cm., 5 3/4 by 16 1/8 in.
  • sheet size: 14.7 by 40.9cm., 5 3/4 by 16 1/8 in.


Acquired by the father of the present owner in the 1970s


Sylvie & Dominique Buisson, Léonard -Tsuguharu Foujita, Paris, 2001, vol. I, catalogued p. 107, mentioned p. 108, four colour illustrations from the sketchbook pp. 106-107


Oblong Japanese notebook with pasteboard covers and Japanese brush and ink inscriptions on the outside of both covers. The cover boards are rubbed at the edges with some vertical creasing. There are 'Paul Petrides' ink stamps in the inside of both covers and on the first leaf, otherwise blank. The sheets of Japan paper are in overall very good condition and the colours fresh, apart from some very minor discolouration to some of the extreme edges and some occasional creases on some of the pages, consistent with age and handling. Each worked sheet is paginated in pencil in the upper gutter. This work is in overall good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This sketchbook provides a fascinating and highly amusing insight into Foujita’s lively personality and daily life that he shared with the muse that inspired some of his most iconic works.

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. 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’, meaning ‘snow’ in Japanese, a reference to her pale porcelain skin, just one element of her captivating beauty. Foujita and Youki were the forbearers of the modern celebrity couple, often making headlines of gossip columns, courting attention with their fashion choices and posing for staged photographs in their home to be published in the press.

Foujita’s colourful character and lifestyle is not typically referenced within the main aspect of his artistic output (luxurious nudes, cats, and milkmaid style girls) for which he is predominantly known. In fact, his eccentric charm would simply have been a footnote in the annals of art history, were it not for Foujita himself keeping a graphic visual diary of his daily routine, his habits and thoughts in this sketchbook which he dedicated to his beloved Youki, and which became known simply as Le Journal de Youki.

Throughout the sketchbook, Foujita has depicted an array of incidents – presumably a mix of both fact and fiction – that entwine together in a labyrinth of creative brilliance. Through all the illustrations of his quotidian activities, such as painting in his studio and indulging in the varied pleasures that 1920s Montparnasse had to offer, the most striking thing to emerge is Foujita’s irresistible sense of humour. In one sketch, Foujita has depicted himself and his wife sleeping in bed and annotated the image ‘Je dors comme un ange… Youki mal à gorge’; in another, Foujita depicts himself creeping up on his reading wife with his tongue sticking out, intent on interrupting her leisure with a lick; in a third he illustrates himself superhumanly balanced with his head on one chair and his feet on another, noting ‘record: 2 minutes’.

While Youki was undoubtedly a source of constant inspiration for the artist, Foujita’s devotion to his wife was often tested by their tempestuous relationship: on a single page Foujita has illustrated himself on his knees as though in prayer, labelling the image ‘adoration de Youki’, a sketch which is at once counteracted by its neighbouring illustration: the artist bursting with fury exclaiming his intention to run off to California and marry an American woman. Youki adored the attention of her artist husband – but also found flattery in the attention of others and eventually began a relationship with poet and close friend of the artist, Robert Desnos. Some of Desnos’s most distinguished poems are those which celebrate Youki. In 1931, Foujita abruptly abandoned his errant wife and left a note for his friend which displays his usual good will: ‘it is your destiny to look after Youki’ (quoted in Phyllis Birnbaum, Glory in a Line: A Life of Foujita: The Artist Caught Between East & West, London, 2007, p. 167).

The present sketchbook is a rare and unique commentary on the truly bohemian life of one of the most original and distinctive artists of the 20th century.  It illuminates a formative period for the artist: a time in which he loudly graced the Montparnasse art scene and lived out an indulgent life with his high-spirited muse. Perhaps most importantly, however, it allows for a very real sense of intimate and exclusive familiarity with an artist whose humour and wit might otherwise be lost with time.