Artists on the edges of Paris: Le Douanier Rousseau, Foujita, and Atget

Sept.10 (Sat.), 2016 -Mar. 3 (Fri), 2017


The Pola Museum of Art is pleased to present the exhibition Artists on the edges of Paris: Le Douanier Rousseau, Foujita, and Atget.
Paris was once a fortified city, surrounded by walls and embankments. The city expanded at the beginning of the twentieth century, with immigrants and the poor settling on its periphery. Artist Henri Rousseau (1844 - 1910), nicknamed “Le Douanier” (the customs officer), was fascinated by the landscape on the outskirts of Paris. Léonard Foujita (Fujita Tsuguharu, 1886 - 1968), who crossed national borders to arrive in Paris in 1913, was also attracted by the city. The beginning of the twentieth century was a time when city peripheries became object of attention, and the edges of Paris certainly fostered such interest at this time. Along with the artists of the period, pioneer photographer Eugène Atget (1857- 1927), called “the Douanier Rousseau of photography,” recorded the transformation of Paris. This exhibition introduces paintings and photographs from the collection of the Pola Museum of Art and from other Japanese collections to highlight the artist gaze on the edges of the city of Paris.

Section I. Rousseau and Picasso: the transformation of urban Paris

Henri Rousseau is known for his fanciful jungle paintings. He was, however, considered an amateur, or ‘Sunday painter,’ because he did his paintings in his spare time from a job as a customs officer. Rousseau was an accomplished painter of the landscapes of Paris. Unbound by conventions, he painted themes of the real and the imagined inspired by his curiosity. Technological innovations of the time, such as steel bridges, airships and light airplanes, and the Eiffel Tower built for the 1889 Paris Exposition, appear spectacularly in his landscapes. Rousseau was also fond of painting the new resort areas on the outskirts of Paris. At the turn of the century, with the population of Paris and its environs swelling, an increased consciousness of the suburbs emerged.

In his later years, Rousseau enjoyed extensive exchanges with young avant-garde artists and critics. The young Spanish artist Pablo Picasso first went to Paris in 1900 and finally settled there in the spring of 1904, after having moved back and forth between Spain and Paris. In 1908, Picasso and his friends organized Le Banquet Rousseau, a legendary evening in honor of Rousseau at the Montmartre artist collective studio and residence, nicknamed Le Bateau-Lavoir (the washing boat house). The works of Rousseau and Picasso reflect the multi-faceted the turn of the century metropolis.


Henri Rousseau, Charenton-le-Pont, 1896-1898, Pola Museum of Art


Eugène Atget, Versailles, 1903, Kawasaki City Museum
Exhibition period: Sept.10, 2016-Oct. 23, 2016

ルソー_エッフェル塔とトロカデロ宮殿の眺望s - コピー

Henri Rousseau, View of the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadéro, 1896-1898, Pola Museum of Art


Henri Rousseau, Landscape with the Dirigible "République" and a Wright Airplane, 1909, Pola Museum of Art


Pablo Picasso, Street Scene, 1900, Pola Museum of Art
(c) 2016 – Succession Pablo Picasso SPDA (JAPAN)

Section II. Foujita’s Paris: landscapes by an artist who crossed borders

Léonard Foujita (Fujita Tsuguhara) arrived in Paris at the age of twenty-six in August 1913. He based himself in the Montparnasse district, producing paintings in the hope of exhibiting at the Salon d’Automne, an important venue for aspiring young artists. When the First World War broke out in 1914, Foujita made up his mind to remain in Paris and seek his original expression in the landscapes of the streets of Paris. Foujita was attracted not by the glamorous sites of Paris or the pastoral country suburbs, but rather by the lonely landscapes on the peripheries of the old city. Foujita’s paintings were concerned with the edges of Paris, the proximity to the old wall surrounding the city and its gates. Just as Rousseau was drawn to the landscapes of the suburbs outside the city, Foujita, living in poverty, found what he was looking for in the raw and lonely places at the boundaries of the city. The Paris city walls reminded Foujita of Edo Castle that he was familiar with in his boyhood. For Foujita, the connection between the two old fortifications served as grounding. Having trained himself in landscape painting, Foujita entered the Salon d’Automne in 1921 with his ‘milky white’ nudes, delicately outlined with a fine point brush in ink on a white ground. Foujita established his own technique and became the first Japanese painter to be acclaimed in Paris.


Léonard Foujita, Gates of Paris, 1914, Pola Museum of Art
© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 G0574


Léonard Foujita, Landscape, 1914, Private Collection
© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 G0574


Léonard Foujita, Poet, ca. 1959, Pola Museum of Art
© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 G0574

Section III. Atget’s Paris

Eugène Atget has been referred to as the ‘father of modern photography.’ His detailed visual catalogue of images of the city of Paris distinguishes him as a chronicler of that city. Atget walked throughout Paris and its environs in 1898 at age 41, with his heavy 18 X 24 cm view glass plate dark box camera and equipment, photographing the city’s historic buildings, interiors, parks, streets, storefronts, signage, and the life of the people working on the street. He produced around ten thousand photographs. Atget’s mission was to record 19th century ‘old Paris’ before it became transformed by rapidly encroaching change.

He captured poetically rich images that illustrate the struggle, at the edges of the metropolis, near its surrounding walls, of nature and the city. He also aimed his lens to the destitute living in illegally built barracks in “La Zone,” the area around the circumference of the city. Atget’s documentary photography was supported by painters, interior designers, architects, libraries, and museums that bought hundreds of his photos. In his later years, his photographs attracted the attention of the young Surrealist artists and others who compared his candid point of view to that of Rousseau. After his death, Atget was called ‘the Rousseau of photography.’

アジェ_「ポール・サリュ」の看板がある店 (228・344)

Eugène Atget, 《Au Port Salut》, rue des Fossés-Saint-Jacques, 5e, 1907-1908, Kawasaki City Museum
Exhibition period: Sept.10, 2016-Oct. 23, 2016


Eugène Atget, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur et Église Saint-Pierre-de-Montmartre, 53 rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre, 18e, 1923, Kawasaki City Museum
Exhibition period: Sept.10, 2016-Oct. 23, 2016


Eugène Atget, Cour, 41 rue Broca, 5e, 1912, Kawasaki City Museum
Exhibition period: Sept.10, 2016-Oct. 23, 2016

Section IV. Utrillo, Vlaminck, Saeki, Oka: the walls of Paris

Grimy walls defaced with graffiti appear in Maurice Utrillo and Saeki Yuzo’s paintings of the streets of Paris. Like graffiti artists, they used methods that allowed them to inscribe their personal traces on canvas. Utrillo’s renderings of the misshapen old building walls in the poor areas of Paris expressed the deep joys and sorrows of the people living in Montmartre, his birthplace. Utrillo truly loved old Paris and was devoted to representing its streets, but he actually painted in his studio from photographs he bought from Atget.

Japanese painters eager to experience their craft in Paris were well received in this open and tolerant city. In the 1920s, Fauvist painter Vlaminck inspired the young Satomi Katsuzo and Saeki Yuzo in Paris. He taught them oil painting technique and, moreover, the importance of instinct when producing paintings. Oguiss Takanori also spent years in Paris, painting the landscape of the old city. Oka Shikanosuke, who went to France in 1925, represented the lightheartedness of ordinary people in the suburban landscape, with bright yet gentle colors, and following the spirit of the paintings of Rousseau.


Maurice Utrillo, Chappe Street, ca.1910, Pola Museum of Art


Maurice Utrillo, La Belle Gabrielle, 1912, Pola Museum of Art

佐伯祐三《アントレ ド リュー ド シャトー》216×265

Saeki Yuzo, Entrée de Rue du Château, ca.1925, Pola Museum of Art

Section V. Foujita’s Petits Métiers

“None of my many paintings of children are drawn from life models; all are from my imagination. I sometimes recall my impressions of children I have seen, but the children in my paintings are not from real life. They are my own children, although I do not have children. I love the children in my paintings as if they were my own children.”

Introduced here are two divergent periods of Foujita’s painting: his landscapes from the 1910’s when he first arrived in Pairs, and the portraits he did of children in his late years. In the roughly forty years between these two periods, Foujita became the darling of the 1920s Paris art world with his images of women painted on a smooth white ground, and he went on to have spectacular success as well as setbacks in the course of his life as an artist.

In 1950, when he returned to Paris at the age of 63, Foujita took French nationality and relinquished his Japanese citizenship. At this time, his painting underwent a dramatic transformation. While his pace of production continued unchanged, he shifted from themes of nudes and cats to the subject of children. His Petits Métiers (little artisans) series is a warm and humorous homage to the workers and craftsmen of Paris, and a salute to the children who will lead the future of the city. The paintings from his later years attest to Foujita’s sustained affection, since the time of his first arrival, for the landscape of the city of Paris.


Léonard Foujita, Self-Portrait, 1929, Pola Museum of Art
© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 G0574


Léonard Foujita, Sisters, 1950, Pola Museum of Art
© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 G0574


Léonard Foujita, Tailor, ca.1959, Pola Museum of Art
© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 G0574


Léonard Foujita, Pickpocket, ca.1959, Pola Museum of Art
© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 G0574