On a beautiful spring morning, my colleague Anne-Sophie and I head for Villiers-le-Bâcle. Actually it’s my first ever visit to this charming village at the entrance to the Chevreuse valley where lies a precious little treasure. Because here you can visit the home and studio of the Franco-Japanese artist with the round spectacles, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita.
I’m very enthusiastic about discovering the universe of this hugely talented artist. First, we’re greeted very warmly by Florence, who suggests a guided tour of the house. Before we start, the guide briefly introduces the painter and, among other details, the fact that this was his final home, the nature retreat where he lived with his Japanese wife, Kimiyo Foujita, away from the exhilaration of the city. In fact, it was she who, after the death of her husband, donated the house to Essonne Departmental Council.
Then I discover the house, brimming with authenticity in the rooms decorated in Foujita’s own unique style or according to his tastes. The moment I set foot in his studio, on the top floor of the house, I’m amazed by its atmosphere. It’s as if the artist were still here. I finish the tour with a stroll in the garden. This is the moment when I understand why he fell in love with this house.
The exhibition tour reveals that Foujita was an artist of many talents: painter, engraver, illustrator, ceramicist and photographer. Moreover, I notice from his work that Foujita fosters both French and Japanese cultures.
His favourite themes (women, cats, children and self-portraits) set him apart in the world of modern art, in a dialogue between East and West, between past and present. The tour offers a wealth of information thanks to the young guide whose explanations and anecdotes immerse us deeper still into the life of the artist.
To end the morning, I’m invited to prolong my experience in the shoes of the illustrator. So I prepare to join the Japanese black ink painting workshop (sumi in Japanese) to learn to paint with the same finesse and assurance as Foujita. Under the guidance of an artist, armed with a fine brush and pretty apron, I’m ready to produce a work of art that would make Foujita’s toes curl.
The workshop does, after all, awaken my inner creativeness, as my picture of an Indian girl demonstrates, as does my slightly wonky Japanese fan! I’m quite proud of myself to be honest!
To sum up, I spent an excellent morning in Villiers-le-Bâcle. In fact I’ll probably return with my family!