Theme/Style – Modernism, figurative art, illustrations
Media – Oils, drawings
Artistic Focus – A member of the international colony of artists that flourished on Paris’s Left Bank at the end of World War I, Fernande Barrey painted in a vivid, precise style, taking several months to complete a piece. Now quite rare, her charming, mysterious paintings seem to capture the daring, free, individualistic spirit of the Montparnasse of the 1920s.
Career Highlights –
- Fernande Barrey was born in Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, France in 1893 and studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris.
- While still an art student in 1917, Barrey met Japanese artist Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita in a Paris café. Legend has it that the infatuated Foujita arrived at Barrey’s apartment the next morning with a blue blouse he had made for her during the night, and they were married 13 days later.
- Barrey counted among her friends and associates the infamous “Kiki of Montparnasse,” along with artists and writers such as Man Ray, Fernand Léger, Moïse Kisling, Jean Cocteau, and Amedeo Modigliani. It was Barrey who introduced Modigliani to Léopold Zborowski, the Polish art dealer who gave him his first solo show, and Modigliani painted his Portrait of Fernande Barrey in 1917.
- In 1918 Barrey and Foujita briefly escaped Paris for the South of France to share a house in Cagnes with friends including Modigliani, Zborowski, and Chaim Soutine.
- In 1920, five of Barrey’s paintings were accepted into Paris’s Salon d’Automne, and she went on to show in every Salon d’Automne and Salon des Indépendants during the 1920s.
- Also during the 1920s, Barrey illustrated the cover of one of the only two issues published of the Left Bank’s art magazine, Montparnasse.
- Barrey also helped promote the work of her husband, and it is said that it was through her efforts that Foujita was discovered by a Paris art dealer and given his first exhibition.
- Barrey and Foujita’s marriage ended around 1923. She continued to live in Montparnasse and socialize in the company of her friend Kiki, as well as Foujita and Jean Dufy. She later married Japanese artist Sei Koyanagui, a friend of Foujita’s and a fellow member of the Left Bank art scene.
- Fernande Barrey passed away in Paris in 1960. To this day photographs of Barrey, Foujita, and their circle adorn the walls of restaurants around Montparnasse, and a plaque at no. 5 rue Delambre, Barrey’s apartment in the heart of the quarter, commemorates Foujita’s sojourn there while the two were married.
Bibliographic references are available upon request.