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Tsuguharu Fujita (Foujita)
Japanese Artist

Background
Born in Tokyo in 1886, Tsugharu Fujita (or Tsuguji Fujita), his father was an Army doctor. When he moved to France, he spelled his name "Foujita" for easier pronunciation and this spelling became known in the west. Later in life, he took the French first name "Leonard".

Wartime Paintings
During 1938-1945, Foujita created at least 150 oil paintings plus 50 watercolors and drawings. About two dozen survive to this day, 14 on "indefinite loan" to the The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

Burning of Nanchang Airfield
Click For Enlargement(1938-1939) On July 18, 1938, Japanese aircraft attacked Ching Yun Pu Airfield at Nanchang. In the foreground is Type 96 D1A1 carrier bomber tail 10-235, No.2 aircraft of the 32nd Shotai of the 1st Kanbaku Chutai, 15th Kokutai flown by PO3c Hamaue. During this mission, this aircraft strafed and set two SB-2 bombers on fire. Its guns then jammed and the pilot landed on Ching Yun Pu runway and taxied to the eastern end of the airfield. Hamaue got out and climbed into an SB-2 and retrieved two drum magazines from the Degtyaryov DA-2 machine gun before setting fire to the Chinese bomber. Before this taking off, the crew destroyed another Chinese aircraft, an I-15bis parked near the SB-2. Thanks to Raymond Cheung for additional information. At the end of the war this painting was displayed at the Navy Museum. Today, the painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00115 on indefinite loan.

Forcing into Hankou
Click For Enlargement(1938-1940) Foujita's first war painting, depicts two Japanese warships crossing the Yangtze River under stormy skies off Hankow, China. No combat is depicted by columns of smoke are visible in the distance. He interviewed participants visited the Yangtze for color, weather and terrain studies. Also known as "Capture of Wuchang Hankow". At the end of the war displayed at the Navy Museum. The painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00116 on indefinite loan.

Battle on the Bank of the Halha, Nomonhan
Click For Enlargement(1941) Commissioned by retired Kwantung Army commander General Ogisu, who was overall commander during the battle. For research, the Army brought Foujita to the battlefield to study the terrain and had their full cooperation. The painting portrays Japanese Army infantry at Bain Tsagn west of Nomonhan involved in a close quarters attacks using bayonets counterattacking Soviet BT-7 tanks during early July 1939. Osugi was heavily involved with the painting, suggesting modifications and revisions. 1.4m x 4.48m canvas. At the end of the war, displayed at Yasukuni Shrine during the war. Postwar, the painting was transported to the United States, photographed and stored by the US Army. Today, the painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00117 on indefinite loan.

The Fall of Singapore (Bukit Timah)
PacificWrecks.com(1942) Depicts Japanese soldiers approaching Singapore. In the corner is a Japanese soldier pointing out the city ahead to a wounded comrade, while Malaysians ride bicycles in the distance. Fujita painted the landscape from Bukit Timah itself and completed the painting in only 26 days. This painting is also known as The Last Day of Singapore: Bukit Timah Highlands. At the end of the war this painting was stored in Takayama City. Today, the painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00119 on indefinite loan.

Click For EnlargementPearl Harbor on December 8, 1941
(1942) Painting of an aerial view of Pearl Harbor and Ford Island with a geyser of water exploding on Battleship Row. At the end of the war displayed at the Navy Museum. The painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00118 on indefinite loan.

Final Fighting on Attu (Last Stand on Attu)
Click For Enlargement(1943) Depicts the final stand of Japanese Army gyokusai against U.S. Army soldiers on Attu Island. When exhibited in 1943, Foujita wore a military uniform and stood with the painting, bowing to visitors who donated money to the war effort. Visitors sometimes prayed or wept while viewing the canvas. 1.93m x 2.59m canvas. Another variation of the title is "Last Stand at Attu". At the end of the war this painting was stored in Takayama City. Today, this painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00120 on indefinite loan.

Click For EnlargementThe Enemies' Fate in the Battle of Solomon Sea
(1943) Another variation on the title is "The Fate of American Soldiers on the Solomon Sea". Depicts a life boat with six Americans contemplating their fate in rough seas and sharks circling in the background. Presumably, these are men from a sunken ship adrift in the Solomon Sea. At the end of the war displayed at the Navy Museum. Today, this painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00121 on indefinite loan.

Click For EnlargementThe Yasuda Unit's Desperate Struggle: The New Guinea Front
(1943) Another variation on the title is "Desperate Struggle of an Unit in New Guinea" or "The Fate of Yamada Force on New Guinea Front, Vice Admiral Yasuda Gigin". Depicts action in New Guinea, possibly an attack on September 26, 1943 at Satelburg Hill against Australian forces. At the end of the war displayed at the Navy Museum. Today, this painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00122 on indefinite loan.

Click For EnlargementFierce Fighting in Guadalcanal
(1944) Incudes a soldier stabbing an enemy with a sword with his right hand, kicking with his left foot and grabbing another enemy with his left hand. At the end of the war this painting was stored in Seoul, Korea. Today, this painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00123 on indefinite loan.

A Soldier of the Imperial Army Arrives for the Rescue
Click For Enlargement(1944) Painting of a Japanese soldier entering the home of an European family who have fled leaving their native servant tied up and gagged, depicting the Japanese as liberators. The interior was based off the home Fujita inhabited while living in Singapore, that formally belonged to a Dutch expatriate. Another variation of the title is "Japanese Soldiers Rescue Indonesian Civilians". The painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00124 on indefinite loan.

Click For EnlargementNight Battle in Bukit Timah
(1942) Japanese soldiers advance through a rubber tree forest, while some cut barbed wire and others attend to a wounded soldier, completed in only 16 days. At the end of the war, stored in a Japanese Army warehouse at Kanda near Tokyo. Postwar, the painting was transported to the United States, photographed and stored by the US Army.

The painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00125 on indefinite loan.

Fierce Advance of the Ogaki Unit
(1944) The painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00126 collection on indefinite loan.

Click For EnlargementFierce Fighting of Kaoru Paratroops after Landing
(1945) Depicts Japanese paratroopers engaged in hand-to-hand combat during the night of December 6/7, 1944 when Japanese paratrooper attacked on San Pabalo Airfield and Buri Airfield on Leyte as part of Operation Te-Go. At the end of the war, displayed at the Ministry of War. Today, the painting is part of the of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00127 collection on indefinite loan.

Japanese Prefer Death to Dishonor
Click For Enlargement(1945) Another variation of the title is "Compatriots on Saipan Island Remain Faithful to the End". This painting depicts the last stand of Japanese Army troops and civilians and suicide at Marpi Point on Saipan. Visible is a Japanese soldier firing at the enemy, while another is preparing to shoot himself. A nursing mother and embraces her daughter, while another civilian prays over a corpse and a woman is pictured jumping off the cliff. A man stands over his family member he has just killed and a woman in a black robe raises her arms before jumping. 1.81m x 3.62m canvas. Exhibited only four months before the end of the war, fewer people saw it, but like the Attu painting were often moved to tears and donate to the war effort. At the end of the war, displayed at the Ministry of War. Today, this painting is part of collection of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo - X00128 on indefinite loan.

During the autumn of 1944, he and his wife evacuated to the countryside and both his Tokyo painting studios were destroyed during B-29 bombing raids during 1945.

Postwar, his paintings were collected from various locations including Yasukuni Shrine, Navy Museum by the US Army and collected to the Ueno Museum in Tokyo. Later, the canvases were transported to the United States with other Japanese war paintings, photographed during 1947 and placed into storage. Later, the paintings were returned to Japan and are today part of the The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo collection on indefinite loan.

Fujita returned to France and retired to the country. He was baptized as a Catholic at age 73 and died in 1968.

References
Glory in a Line: A Life of Foujita The Artist Caught Between East & West
Embodiment / Disembowelment: Japanese Painting during the Fifteen-Year War by Bert Winther-Tamaki, 1997
LĂ©onard-Tsuguharu Foujita by Sylvie Buisson, Dominique Buisson
Artists of World War II page 119 -120, notes 124-125
Thanks to Yoji Sakaida for additional information

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Last Updated
March 26, 2012

 

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