Foujita was living in Japan when Intérieur was created in 1947, yet the artist chose to portray a home with a Western interior design. The reasons for this choice are deeply entrenched in the artist’s personal experience and background. Foujita had returned to Tokyo in the years immediately preceding WWII, following a series of travels around the world. During the war, as appointed by the government, Foujita became a military painter, creating many depictions that served as important historical records and testaments to the monumental events of the time. Standing from the perspective of an observer, Foujita created a series of controversial Imperial Japanese war paintings, scenes that portrayed fierce scenes of combat, illustrating the dark side of manmade catastrophe. When Japan finally surrendered in 1945, ending WWII, Foujita’s role as a painter for the military immediately came under attack. Although his paintings largely depicted not the glory of war, but the human suffering created by the cruelty of violent combat, he could not escape being labelled a “supporter and collaborator of the war.” It was the most severe criminal classification. The resulting public pressure Foujita received from the society led the artist to depart from his native country yet again, in 1949. He first stayed for a brief period in the United States, before leaving the following year to return to France, making a life in Paris for the second time. Before Foujita left Japan, however, he conjured up memories of his former life in France, and projected them onto the canvas. During the same time, he also created an architectural model, identical in appearance and content to the painting, manifesting before our eyes the bungalow in the Parisian outskirts for which he must have been yearning. These works clearly convey Foujita’s emotional resolve in leaving Japan for good.
The furnishings and arrangement of the space depicted in the painting possess an irresistible familiarity, communicating the artist’s deep longing for the warmth of home. Perhaps Foujita, by then in his 60s, having experienced the upheavals of war and its aftermath, was expressing an emotional need for stability and security. This interior space exudes an exceptional stillness, in part due to the tranquillity and harmony created by the milky white tones. As early as the 1920s, Foujita had achieved a great facility for managing the colour and effect of translucent ivory, often using it in his paintings of nude female subjects, where he would portray their skin as smooth, gleaming porcelain. This technique, then, was agilely extended to his creation of Intérieur. The environment of the interior space is imbued with a similar aura of purity, the warm white hues creating gentle and abundant light, reaching every corner. Within this painting are also the Christian-themed paintings hanging on the walls, “paintings within a painting,” which not only serve to embellish and enhance the painting’s visual charm, but also reflect the artist’s own identity as a devout follower. This theme, too, is in close synchrony with the painting’s atmosphere of simplicity and purity. Foujita had spent his entire life studying and practicing religious art. Beginning in the 1910s, soon after he had arrived in Paris for the first time, until he returned to France, religion was an important subject for the artist, serving as a connecting thread across the artist’s entire career. Intérieur is a coalescence of these subjects of architecture, religion, and the use of the “painting within a painting” composition. The artist’s various creative techniques and profound and meticulous composition appear all at once upon the canvas, which accounts for its supreme status among paintings of similar subjects.
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