Can people change? Life shows that in most cases people don’t change much. But sometimes some events—usually tragic ones—can make us rethink our values and lifestyles. And it seems that war is the most successful life teacher that can turn everything upside down.

And Tsuguharu Foujita was among those whose life and style of paintings changed tremendously during both world wars.

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita was a Japanese-French painter and printmaker. He applied Japanese ink techniques to Western-style paintings. Foujita was a representative of the Expressionism and Magic Realism art movements.

After finishing a local secondary school, Tsuguharu Foujita intended to go to France and received his education there, but on the advice of Mori Ōgai, his father’s senpai military physician, he decided to study western art in Japan. In 1910 Fujita graduated from what is now the Tokyo University of the Arts. In 1913 he went to Paris, where he immediately befriended many of the leading painters of the day, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, and Chaim Soutine.

Tsuguharu Fujita displayed an affection for white and pale shades like lavender and grey. He walked a fine line between Japanese and European art and was mainly inspired by women and cats. He exhibited his artworks for the first time in Paris in 1917.

In 1931-1932 Fujita travelled throughout Latin America, visiting Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina, and had a major exhibition of his work in Buenos Aires. During the Second World War, he returned to Japan, where he served as a war artist for the Japanese government, exchanging his trademark painting style for brutally heroic war paintings supporting Japan’s war effort, first against China and, later, the Allies in World War II. You can see some of the examples of his war paintings in the carousel above.

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