GHOST DECOR

It was had-to-have décor, craved by every fancy French home. It also showcased dream designs: coloured, stencilled, flocked and blocked into place by the finest craftsmen. During the 18th century, wallpaper was so important every design was deposited with the state. Over 2000 of these are preserved and you can now see hundreds online.

These samples were all on Paris walls during 1799. Who knows what shadows were thrown on them or what dramas they witnessed?

• Antique wallpaper is actually on display at MAD, the Paris Musée des arts décoratifs

THE JAPANESE WARHOL

He was a dandy and  ladykiller of the Paris Jazz Age. His many friends – like Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani and Josephine Baker – saw him the way New Yorkers saw Warhol. Everyone in Paris knew his pudding bowl haircut, his shiny earrings and his rounded specs. Now he’s back, at the just re-opened Musée Maillol.

Tsuguharu Foujita was an avant-garde oddity. But his legend still endures. Only two years ago, his life became a movie. Although his father was a general in the Japanese Army, Foujita always dreamed of making art in Paris. Once he got here, in 1913, nothing seemed to stop him.

In Bohemian Montparnasse, he was the life of the party. Foujita loved to dress in drag, whip up special clothes and throw lavish celebrations. He taught his pal Modigliani Japanese drawing and he himself studied dance with Isadora Duncan.

But…could he really paint? Yes, in a quirky mix of Japanese tradition and Art Deco stylisation. His favourite subjects were female nudes, animals (most especially cats), strange still lives and self-portraits. Initially all over the place, he evolved a singular style.

It’s a strange marriage where Western kitsch meets Eastern order. But it made Foujita wildly successful; at one point he was selling paintings faster than Picasso.

Among his commissions were huge, shimmering murals. In the Maillol show, two of them fill the entire basement. They vibrate with Foujita’s paints: specialities he mixed himself to Japanese and Chinese recipes. A primary tool was the special white whose ingredients he kept secret.

In 1933, after a series of sellout shows in Latin America, Foujita returned to Japan. He was received as a star and, during World War II, he worked as an Imperial propagandist.

By 1950, however, he was back in Paris. In 1955 Foujita took French citizenship and, in 1959, he became Catholic. He also changed his name, becoming “Léonard Foujita” – a name he chose to honour Leonardo da Vinci. He retired to a village near Reims where he is buried in his “Foujita Chapel“.

The cats he loved to paint so much live on after him. Foujita’s 1930 Book of Cats has become now one of the world’s most valuable books.

Foujita, Painter of the Roaring Twenties runs until 15 July at Musée Maillol

DELACROIX CONFIDENTIAL

Was Eugène Delacroix the Edgar Allan Poe of painting? Certainly his friend Baudelaire thought so. Delacroix relished drama – from dead bodies dripping with water to sadistic murders and rapes. Not to mention animals or warriors ripping each other apart.

Given his fancy family this might seem startling. For, under Napoleon, Delacroix’s father was Minister of Foreign Affairs. His older brother went on to become a general. But the Emperor’s downfall wiped out Eugène’s options.

Thus he decided to paint. But Delacroix remained obsessed – determined to make it big.

The Louvre’s brand-new blockbuster analyzes how he did it. From his careful sketches in Morocco to the calculated shock of Liberty Leading the People, it explains how he engineered sensation. Delacroix set viewers adrift with the damned, then plonked them down in the middle of a massacre.

It made him both a scandal and a celebrity.

The figures in his paintings are hardly “accurate”. But what mattered to their creator was the total effect. His colours whirl and glitter – while piles of corpses hang next to hairy, grappling beasts. Only yards away from his enormous flower studies, visitors find a devil zipping through the air.

The majority of Delacroix’s exotica was imagined. For, after he visited England and Morocco, the artist never travelled. (His predatory tigers came from Paris’ Jardin des Plantes ). Yet both violence and the foreign mesmerised him… and Delacroix always thought big.

Two works are actually so huge they couldn’t fit in the show. Ticketholders have to see them elsewhere in the Louvre.

Despite his extreme painting, the artist himself was stern and fairly solitary. Delacroix was a dandy who loved English style and landscapes. He painted numerous scenes from Shakespeare and Walter Scott.

On the other hand, though, he was nostalgic for Napoleon. Nadar’s telling photo captures him posed like the Emperor.

Delacroix’s relentlessness and obsession are fascinating. You get the best peek at both, literally, in the margins. This great show is stuffed with examples – in letters, sketchbooks, preliminary drawings and the many journals Delacroix kept so carefully.

My favourite was an urgent note he dashed off to his colourists, Jacques-François Haro and his wife Angélique. The letter itself is dotted with samples of the colours he wants.

It was sent 28 October 1827 – as the artist was desperate to finish The Death of Sardanapalus.

Here’s what it says: “M. Delacroix salutes Madame Haro and begs her to have ground for him 6 bladders of lead white, 6 of Naples yellow, 2 of yellow ochre, 2 of cobalt, 2 of peach black for him, all of them more liquid than the colours usually prepared. Without fail he will be by tomorrow morning, Tuesday, to pick them up at 7 am. So can she please ensure all of this is done tonight”.

Eugène Delacroix, artist in a hurry.

Photos 2 and 6 © and courtesy Musée du Louvre, all rights reserved

A good podcast, in English, about Delacroix’s most famous work