Lot 1011
  • 1011

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita

1,800,000 - 2,800,000 HKD
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  • Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita
  • Nu Assoupi, Youki
  • signed in Japanese and English, dated 1926
  • oil on canvas


Important Private European Collection


Sylvie Buisson, Foujita et Ses Amis du Montparnasse, Art en scene, Paris, 2010, p. 93


The work is overall in good condition. It has recently undergone restoration, and the report is available upon request.
"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

An Artist and His Muse
Behind all artistic creations, there are often legends – be they events or people. In particular, many paintings are related to an artist and his/ her muse. Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, who was active in the Parisian artistic circle during the 1920s, also had his muses along his creative journey. One such person was Youki. Foujita first met Youki, whose real name was Lucie Badoud, in 1923. Youki literally meant “little snow”, which Foujita adopted for Badoud because of her fair, snow-like complexion. They fell in love and got married, until 1931 when the couple broke up. The nearly 10-year period coincided with Foujita’s creative focus on nude paintings as well as sleeping nudes. In 1924, he completed Youki, Goddess of Snow, which was exhibited in the Salon d'Automne and eventually entered the collection of Musée du Petit Palais in Geneva. Nu assoupi, Youki (Lot 1011) was completed in 1926, shortly after Youki, Goddess of Snow, and it is another representative example that shares the same creative background.
Material and Sense of Touch
Foujita experimented with a unique painting material that offered a new colour and texture. Not only does the painting depict Youki’s spirit and physical form, but also it conveys the soft, glowing texture of her skin. In addition to the visual effect, it also evokes the sense of touch. The artist first spread the material, a mixture of animal glue, lead white and calcium carbonate, across the canvas as a base, then used fine sandpaper to polish the material to a smooth, gleaming milky-white surface whose texture is almost like marble stones. The result is a smooth, fluid, glaze-like effect akin to the glow of the skin. The artist applied grey paint for the body parts in the shade – on one hand, it shows the subtle contrasts on the skin, as if the body is covered by a divine light; on the other hand, it conveys a smooth, three-dimensional sense of volume akin to a marble statue or the folds of fabrics. On top of the layers of colours, Foujita used fine lines to draw his model’s voluptuous body. Intricate, accurate and delicate, the lines convey the softness and allure of her body.
Unlike his post-1950 paintings which are extremely detailed, and they focus on the plot and scene of specific stories, Foujita’s nude paintings from the 1920s were minimalistic and ethereal. Nu assoupi, Youki includes large areas of white painted with a milky white pigment in the background, a distinct contrast with lines in black ink using a Japanese style of drawing. The contrast between black and white was exceptionally pure and tranquil. Underneath the white pigment, one can just about see the milky-white and grey colours seeping through, creating in a rich and thick milky-white effect, adding an unprecedented, gentle and Eastern femininity to the genre of nude paintings.
Ethereal and Erotic: a Mixed Image of a Nude Woman
The painting’s chiaroscuro effect, the contrast between dark and light, the sculpture-like colour and texture akin to marble stones, as well as the subtle hint of light on the body all evoke the association of Western religious painting tradition. On the other hand, the delicate and accurately executed lines, free-floating and dividing the canvas into smaller sections belong to the Japanese Ukiyo-e painting tradition. The artist fused together the two to create a unique approach of nude paintings. Over the history of nude paintings in the West, images of women changed, resulting in much creativity and breakthrough in art. Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus is a mixture of divinity and humanity; Monet’s Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe portrays a woman who appears to be simultaneously sacred yet common. The nude women’s images in Foujita’s paintings are voluptuous yet sacredly pure, ethereal and fantastical, adding to the genre a refreshing new image.