As part of the BNP Paribas pour l’Art programme, the BNP Paribas Foundation and BNP Paribas Japan have helped fund the restoration of an oil-on-canvas painting by Léonard Foujita (1886 - 1968), an artist who exemplifies ties between France and Japan.
Thanks to restoration work by the Tokyo University of the Arts overseen by eminent scientific specialists, “Avant le Bal” (Before the Ball) has regained its original brilliance and will soon be prominently displayed in the Ohara Museum in Kurashiki, Japan.
Before rejoining the museum’s permanent collection, the painting will be featured at the National Art Center in Tokyo as part of an exhibition of masterpieces from the Ohara Museum of Art.
“Avant le Bal” will also be one of the key works displayed in the Léonard Foujita exhibition scheduled for Kyoto and Tokyo in 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death. This corporate philanthropy initiative underlines the commitment of the BNP Paribas Foundation and of BNP Paribas Japan to helping preserve Japan’s rich heritage.
A well-known figure in the artistic community in the Montparnasse district of Paris in the 1920s, Léonard Foujita was the scion of a highly cultured Japanese family open to new Western ideas. He learned French at primary school and then studied Western painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. After arriving in Paris in 1913, he discovered the work of Picasso and Henri Rousseau, and kept company with Apollinaire, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Kees Van Dongen and other artists. Foujita was rapidly drawn to the Ecole de Paris school, of which he became a member. He forged his own distinctive style, melding Western avant-garde techniques with his Asian roots. Foujita became famous for his highly personal subjects, including women and young girls, cats, self-portraits and religious scenes.
When it was first shown, Foujita’s painting “Avant le Bal” was hailed for both its harmony and the painter’s ‘Nyuhakushoku’ (chalk white) technique, the details of which he kept a closely-guarded secret. This technique entailed first painting a background with white mother-of-pearl powder, then applying other materials, including a Japanese ink called ‘Sumi’. Foujita was very fond of the painting and kept it for several years. At the centre is Foujita’s wife Lucie Badoud, whom he nicknamed Youki – ‘snow’ in Japanese – because of her very white skin tone. The shorter woman to her left is Marie Vassiliev, a noted Russian painter who also lived in Montparnasse.
About “BNP Paribas for Art” programme
The BNP Paribas Foundation has been a loyal and widely recognized patron of museums for many years. It is committed to preserving and promoting awareness of the heritage of museums by supporting the restoration of masterpieces under the aegis of the BNP Paribas for Art programme. Founded in 1994, the programme has involved the restoration of more than 200 works of art or collections from every period in art history held in museums and monuments in France. These include the Château de Versailles (ceiling of the Hercules Salon painted by François Lemoyne), the National Museum of Modern Art (My Flower Bed by Yayoi Kusama), the Musée d’Orsay (the pastel collection), the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Quimper (collection of early Italian paintings), and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Tourcoing (Eugène Leroy collection).
The BNP Paribas Foundation actively supports the BNP Paribas Group’s international expansion and has been increasingly involved in restoration projects since 2004 at museums around the world : the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany (The Triptych of the Virgin by Macrino d’Alba), the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, Germany (Sluice Gate in the Optevoz Valley by Charles-François Daubigny), the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia (The Boar Hunt by Franz Snyders), the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia (the Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin), the Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada (Jar of Apricots by Jean-Baptiste Chardin), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada (Interior with a Woman Playing a Virginal by Emanuel de Witte) , the future Mosaic Museum in Alexandria, Egypt (ancient mosaics discovered in Alexandria), the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain (The Conversion of Saint Paul by Juan Bautista Maino), the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, Greece (ten post-Byzantine frescoes), the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin (Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat by Claude Monet), the Van Loon Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands (six panels painted by Jurriaan Andriessen), the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow (The Bathers triptych by Natalia Gontcharova), the Peranakan Museum in Singapore (a beaded tapestry dating from the early 20th century), the National Palace Museum in Taiwan (a Qing dynasty mirror case).
Under the aegis of the Fondation de France, the BNP Paribas Foundation has been playing a key role in corporate philanthropy for 30 years. It is also encouraging and contributing to the BNP Paribas’ philanthropic policy growth in all parts of the world where the Group does business. The BNP Paribas Foundation’s activities are aimed at promoting innovative projects dedicated to culture, social inclusion and the environment. It is paying close attention to provide optimal support to its partners, through a long-term commitment. Dialogue, loyal support and a relationship based on trust are the hallmarks of its involvement.
BNP Paribas has a presence in 75 countries with more than 185,000 employees, including 145,000 in Europe. It ranks highly in its two core activities: Retail Banking & Services (comprised of Domestic Markets and International Financial Services) and Corporate & Institutional Banking. In Europe, the Group has four domestic markets (Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg) and BNP Paribas Personal Finance is the leader in consumer lending. BNP Paribas is rolling out its integrated retail banking model across Mediterranean basin countries, in Turkey, in Eastern Europe and a large network in the western part of the United States. In its Corporate & Institutional Banking and International Financial Services activities, BNP Paribas also enjoys top positions in Europe, a strong presence in the Americas and solid and fast-growing businesses in Asia-Pacific.