Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Nu couché à la toile de Jouy Léonard Foujita

Nu couché à la toile de Jouy (‘Reclining Nude with Toile de Jouy’),1922, a gift from the artist in 1961, was one of Foujita’s first nude paintings using a live model. Loosely basing his composition on Manet’s Olympia and the odalisques of Titian and Ingres, Foujita painted a naked woman with pearl-white skin, looking directly at the spectator, reclining lasciviously on a bed covered with diaphanous white rumpled sheets. But he blended this classical subject, brought up to date with a certain humour, with Japanese tradition (according to the painter, the model with the Oriental features was the celebrated Kiki de Montparnasse). The sensual body with its swelling curves is white as snow, outlined in black ink: “a finely drawn, steady line as if a razor had been drawn very lightly over it.”

The nude is set in an alcove, formed by a pleated pelmet with drapes hanging on either side in sepia toile de Jouy, with little scenes (fragmented by the cut of the fabric), in 18th-century painting style, representing the loves of Venus, Mars with the beard of a cuckold, and Vulcan working in his forge; a detail that reminds us that this is a “boudoir” scene. He has reduced the colour range by using the two colours of the toile de Jouy (sepia and white) and black and white for the representation of the woman, thus provoking a strong contrast between the two images. Foujita was very sensitive to details from French folk tradition (Épinal prints, Quimper faience, toile de Jouy), to the point where a critic said of him that he “was thought of as a French painter by the Japanese, and as totally Japanese by Westerners.”