Léonard Tsuhugaru Foujita, Kiki de Montparnasse, Nu allongé.
In the early Thirties, the death of Sanyu’s brother, who managed the family business, put an end to the artist’s comfortable situation. However, Sanyu was noticed at this period by Henri-Pierre Roché, a knowledgeable art dealer, who luckily provided financial support and also brought him into the limelight. This was a period of intense creativity, mainly focused on studies of nudes, in which he reached a peak in a certain style and achieved mastery of a technique. The oil on canvas we are presenting is a fine illustration of Sanyu’s artistic explorations at this time. A nude woman, seen from behind, is shown sitting on a stool, her head turned to the left, revealing her profile. The gaze is immediately drawn to this single eye, which gives life to the model. The pose is reminiscent of Man Ray’s Violon d’Ingres, a celebrated photograph by an iconic artist of the period, who was a friend of Sanyu’s. The model’s pose, like the harmonious play of colours, emanates a general impression of intimate modesty: the nude turns her face so that we can only make out the sombre intensity of her eye, together with the light colouring of a subdued cheek. This roseate touch expresses a distinctly oriental feminine charm. The facial features are barely visible; the woman seems determined not to expose what is most precious to her, and through her gaze, appears to invite the viewer to try to discover it.
Like Picasso, Sanyu decided to introduce a discreetly Cubist touch into this face, through the eye depicted head-on in the woman’s profile. This detail, the mark of both traditional Chinese drawing and Cubism, lies in the superimposed planes between the nude and the background, whose colours are similar and subtly stand out against each other. Perspective is suggested by the stool, which in itself evokes the idea of depth. The sensitivity and refinement of a colour technique that is both luminous and discreet mingles delicately with the simplicity of composition and line. The whole work emanates an impression of transparency and light, enhanced by the delicate rendering of the material. The nude seems to be swathed in a certain purity, and Sanyu’s marked restraint illustrates his faithfulness to Chinese tradition. Because here he perpetuates an effect particularly typical of the Chinese approach to painting – the blank spaces that appear so frequently in traditional Chinese landscapes. This entirely Oriental approach requires a perfect balance between black and white, between full and empty space. The empty part generally evokes natural elements like water, clouds and wind. White plays a predominant role through the effects of light unveiling the generous