Cross-Cultural Dialogue and Search of Identity by Léonard Foujita

  • Abstract:

    Recent studies of different multi-cultural networks highlight that the artists’ circulation generated a great impact on several avant-gardist movements. The ‘passage’ of artists to big European cities, such as Paris, Walter Benjamin’s ‘City of Lights’, is a good example of this phenomena. A huge number of artists from different horizons coming to settle in Paris, the world capital of art at that time, constituted ‘École de Paris’ during the three first decades of the 20th century. They were largely non-French artists, including Japanese artists who came from not ‘somewhere else’ of the West but Far-East. The Western modern world was highly challenging for Japanese artists who suffered from confrontation with the duality between cultural identity and universal artistic values, fundamentally imposed Eurocentric aesthetics. Japanese modern era – Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods – and who knew the struggle regarding a dilemma, the complex situation with perpetuation of Japanese traditional artistic values initiated by Fenollosa and Okakura contrasted with the principal governmental goal for rapid catching up to Western technology and knowledge. My paper attempts to examine Japanese painters’ awakening of Far-Eastern identity while searching for assimilation to European aesthetics with “Ideal” through their encounter of European art and spiritual dialogues with past masters works. They found their another-self in this mirror city Paris. The analysis will particularly be interested in Léonard Foujita (1886-1968) who changed his style with contact of European art and became an emblematical painter of the Ecole de Paris. What was the process of his awakening of cultural identity, through temptation of the West, while trying to pursue the universal in his art? The analysis of the awakening process of this Japanese artist after an intense dialogue with the human creative adventures, finally reveals complex artistic identity which affirmed hybrid style, fusion of the West and East, a synergy of two complementary entities, which produce a new vital spirit.