PAPER PROFIT FOR RARE JAPANESE WATERCOLOUR
Buyers battle at The Canterbury Auction Galleries to secure work by leading artist Foujita
Japanese dealers and collectors beat a path to the door of The Canterbury Auction Galleries, all desperate to acquire a rare gem in a sale of fine art, antiques and collectors’ items: a work by the renowned painter and printmaker, Léonard Tsugouharu Foujita.
In the event, the pen, ink and watercolour portrait on paper of a young child wearing a headscarf was won by one of their determined number, but the victory cost him dear. The 8 by 6.25-inch picture, signed “Foujita”, in a bevelled oak frame, was hammered down for a resounding £10,000. The price was an indication of the regard the artist is held in.
Born in Tokyo in 1886, Tsuguharu Foujita graduated at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1910. The Meiji emperor bought one of his works in the same year. In 1913 he went to Paris, and established himself in Montparnasse, where he met Modigliani, Léger, Picasso and Matisse. Success quickly followed.
After his third marriage had broken down, he went to Latin America in 1931, where he became hugely successful, before returning to Japan in 1933. He was an official war artist for is country, becoming a noted producer of militaristic propaganda. After the war he returned to France to settle permanently. He became a naturalised Frenchman in 1955, and converted to Catholicism in 1959. He remained active until shortly before his death and is buried in the chapel he built in Reims.
The portrait was formerly in the collection of the Cheshire owner of a paper mill in Radcliffe, Manchester.
Another picture of note in the sale was titled “Broadstairs”, an oil on canvas by Arthur Kemp Tebby (c1865-c1935) which showed two ladies seated on a balcony knitting, with a view of the harbour of the Kent coastal town in the background. From a local home, it sold to a local private collector for £4,300.
Nearest contender to top lot in the sale was a modern 18k white gold bracelet set in line with 55 square cut stones weighing a total of 11.36 carats. Now known as a tennis bracelet after the example worn and famously dropped on court in a U.S. Open championship by Chris Evert, it sold to a local private buyer for £9,600 against an estimate of £4,500-6,000.
Chinese works of art continue to attract attention, notably a good early 20th century carved coral standing figure of a woman carrying a basket of peaches. It sold to a London dealer for £8,500 against an estimate of £3,000-5,000, while a pale green jade two-handled vessel and cover carved in the archaistic manner with a dragon, taotie (monster) masks and dragon handles sold to a Chinese commission bidder for £6,000.
A dealer from the Midlands secured the most valuable work of art in the sale, a carved white marble figure of a standing nude female by the Italian sculptor Pietro Bazzanti (1825-1895) also known as Bazzantini. Estimated at £1,000-1,500, it sold for £5,200.
However, happiest was the child who received a toy car in his (very large) Christmas stocking. This was no ordinary toy, though. The famous original Baby Bugatti, a replica of the 1928 Type 35B racing car, was built by Ettore Bugatti for his five-year-old son Roland. It was so successful that a limited series of 499 factory-made examples was produced for VIP customers of the marque. Known as the “Type 52”, it is usually referred to as the “Type That Never Was”.
Topping the collectors’ section of the Canterbury sale was a superb half-scale replica of a Bugatti “Type 52”, finished in Bugatti blue, hand-built to exacting standards by Mr Peter Vickery-Jones, a UK automotive engineer, in 1989 as a gift for his daughter. Powered by a 12 volt electric motor, the wheels were cast by hand from the owner’s own moulds and featured all-wheel drum brakes. It was estimated to a Surrey private buyer for £4,800.