the artist

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968)

A fascinating and inspiring figure, an unclassifiable Franco-Japanese creator, Foujita is one of the most famous artists of the Ecole de Paris, whose work expresses an aesthetic fusion unique in the history of 20th-century art.

His style and originality seduced the Tout-Paris of the Roaring Twenties and his friends in Montparnasse: Modigliani, Soutine, Zadkine, Picasso, Laurencin, Dufy, Desnos, Cocteau…

His artistic and intimate universe represents a successful combination of East and West, making him an emblematic figure in the friendly relationship between France and Japan. A multi-faceted artist, he embodies in turn the image of the perfectionist painter, the photographer open to the world, the extravagant stylist-dandy and the craftsman magician of everyday life.

Known for his famous haircut, his round glasses and his sometimes extravagant clothes, he also charms with his kindness and humor. A citizen of the world, Foujita traveled extensively in France, Europe, North Africa, the United States, Latin America and, of course, Southeast Asia. Every step of the way, he enjoys observing people in all their diversity and everyday life, capturing them in their singular humanity.


« On me prédisait que je serais le premier peintre du Japon, mais c’était le premier peintre de Paris que je rêvais d’être. Il me fallait retourner aux sources … » « À peine revenu de chez Picasso, je suis entré chez moi et j’ai jeté par terre toutes mes couleurs et mon matériel de peinture. Nous n’étions qu’au second jour de mon arrivée à Paris et déjà je tentais d’oublier toutes les techniques que j’avais apprises au Japon, de comment tenir sa palette à la manière de laver les pinceaux ... » « La plupart des artistes, comme Matisse, Braque, peignaient avec une brosse large. Contrairement à eux, je me suis mis à peindre avec un pinceau fin. Tout le monde utilisait beaucoup de couleurs superbes. Mais j'ai cherché à peindre légèrement, et en noir et blanc. »

Key dates


Born November 27 in Tokyo.


Arrival in Paris. Foujita rubs shoulders with Picasso, Zadkine, Modigliani and Soutine.

The 20s

A golden age for Foujita: the consecration and perfection of his art. He adopted the famous milky white backgrounds that enhanced his female models, such as Kiki de Montparnasse. Foujita becomes one of the most famous artists. He met Lucie Badoud in 1923, and renamed her Youki “neige rose”. She became his muse and companion.


Foujita is made a knight of the Legion of Honor.


Departure for a world tour: USA, Central America, Latin America, China, Indochina and Japan. At each stage, Foujita met with success.


Back to Paris with Kimiyo, his last wife. The war forced them to leave France on May 23, 1940.


Final return to France with Kimiyo on February 14.


French naturalization on February 28.


Conversion to Catholicism with his baptism in Reims Cathedral on October 14.


Installation in his home-studio at Villiers-le-Bâcle in Essonne.

1963 - 1966

Design and decoration of the Notre-Dame de la Paix chapel, known as the “Chapelle Foujita” in Reims.


The artist dies on January 29 in Zurich.
His body lies in the “Chapelle Foujita”.