Madame Chrysanthème

Year: 1926

Author: Pierre Loti (1850 - 1923)

Artist: Tsuguharu Foujita (1886 - 1968)

Publisher: Éditions Excelsior

Madame Chrysantheme, frontispiece and title page

At the end of the nineteenth century, during the Belle Époque, Japan became a real fad in France. Pierre Loti (Louis Marie Julien Viaud's pseudonym) went along in this. He was a naval officer, a writer, and a member of the Académie Française. His story Madama Chrysanthème is largely set in Japan, and is a precursor of Puccini's famous opera Madame Butterfly. The emphasis in Loti's novel is not so much on love, but on the marriage of convenience between a French naval officer, Loti, and the eighteen-year-old Japanese girl Okané-San. After her marriage, she is called Madame Chrysanthème: she symbolises modern Japan.


Wayward Japanese artist Tsuguharu Foujita, who would later adopt the name Léonard in honour of Leonardo da Vinci, arrived in Marseille in 1913. He was determined to become an artist. The little Buddhist with the black bobbed haircut, the round spectacles and the Charlie Chaplin moustache became a living legend in the art world of Montparnasse. Due to his fascination for the West and especially for the art of the French avant-garde, he attempted to fuse eastern painting and drawing techniques with western ones. Besides great admiration, fame and many commissions, Foujita's style also brought him the order of 'chevalier de la Légion d'honneur de France'.

Colour illustrations

The rise of photographic techniques in the nineteenth century made the mass production of possible. This did however bring with it some early problems. Illustrations would fade, the techniques were expensive or unreliable, and the illustrations were difficult to fit into the typographical process. In order to guarantee the quality of the book illustrations, they were usually printed separately on special paper. The loose, full-page illustrations were glued to the text quires with a slip of paper, while smaller images were glued into the book.

The same thing holds true for the 60 brush drawings with aquarelle colours that Foujita made for this 'demi-luxe' edition of Madame Chrysanthème. They date back to Foujita's earlier period and were produced in a recognisably Japanese style. Foujita used a supple, pointed brush and Indian ink, so he could make the lines as thick or as thin as he wanted them to be. The illustrations produced specifically for this book were coloured with aquarelles, after which they could be reproduced.

Bibliographical description

Description: Madame Chrysanthème / Pierre Loti ; ill. orig. en couleurs de Foujita. – Paris : Éditions Excelsior, 1926. - 210 p., [17] bl. pl. : ill. ; 26 cm

Printer: Arrault et Cie. (Tours)

Edition: 546 copies

This copy: Number 191 of 425 on Arches

Bibliography: Bénézit 5-603 ; Carteret VI-245 ; Mahé II-707 ; Monod 7312

Shelfmark: KW Koopm L 487


  • Tristan Klingsor, 'Foujita', in: L'art et décoration, 51 (1927) Jan., p. 111-118
  • Michel Melot, L'illustration: Histoire d'un art. Genève, Skira, 1984
  • Paul Morand, Foujita. Paris, Chroniques du jour, 1928
  • Allain Quella-Villéger, Pierre Loti: Le pèlerin de la planète. Bordeaux, Aubéron, 1998