Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, also known as Fujita (November 27, 1886 – January 29, 1968) was a painter and engraver born in Tokyo, Japan who applied French oil techniques to Japanese-style paintings.
In 1910 Foujita graduated from what is now the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Three years later he went to Montparnasse in Paris, France. When he arrived there, knowing nobody, he met Amedeo Modigliani, Pascin, Chaim Soutine, and Fernand Leger practically the same night and within a week became friends with Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
Foujita had his first studio at no. 5 rue Delambre in Montparnasse where he became the envy of everyone when he eventually made enough money to install a bathtub with hot running water. Many models came over to Foujita's place to enjoy this luxury, among them Man Ray's very liberated lover, Kiki, who boldly posed for Foujita in the nude in the outdoor courtyard. Another portrait of Kiki titled "Reclining Nude with Toile de Jouy," shows her lying naked against an ivory-white background. It was the sensation of Paris at the Salon d'Automne in 1922, selling for more than 8,000 francs.
In March of 1917 in the café La Rotonde, Foujita was hit by lightning in the form of a young lady by the name of Fernande Barrey. At first, she totally ignored Foujita's efforts to engage her in conversation. However, early the next morning, Foujita showed up at Fernande's place with a blue corsage he'd made overnight. Intrigued, she offered him a pot of tea and they were married 13 days later.
Within a few years, particularly after his 1918 exposition, he achieved great fame as a painter of beautiful women and cats in a very original technique. He is one of the few Montparnasse artists who made a great deal of money in his early years. By 1925, Tsuguharu Foujita had received the Belgian Order of King Leopold I and the French government awarded him the Legion of Honor.
In 1918, a trip to the south of France was organized by the Polish poet Leopold Zborowski, who had the idea that his artist-friends could sell pictures there to rich tourists. Foujita and his wife went along as did Soutine, Modigliani with his lover, Jeanne Hébuterne. The trip was not, however, a success and the group had to survive on the advances that Foujita had obtained from his Paris dealer. By the time the final reckoning arrived even those funds had run out, and their landlord, ignoring their worthless pieces of art, confiscated all their baggage in lieu of payment.
After the breakup of his third marriage, and his flight to Brazil in 1931 (with his new love, Mady), Foujita traveled and painted all over Latin America, giving hugely successful exhibitions along the way. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, 60,000 people attended his exhibition, and more than 10,000 queued up for his autograph. Two years later he was welcomed back as a star to Japan where he stayed until 1939. His works can be found in the Bridgestone Museum of Art and in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and more than 100 in the Hirano Masakichi Art Museum in Akita.
His last major work was the decoration of a chapel in Reims, France, which he completed in 1966, not long before his death.
Tsuguharu Foujita died of cancer on January 29, 1968 in Zürich, Switzerland and was interred in the Cimetière de Villiers-Le-Bacle, Essonne departement, France.