Lot 31
Post-War & Contemporary Art | 19 October 2022
Francis Picabia (1879-1953)

Jeudi (Thursday)

signed and dated 'Francis Picabia 1951' (lower right)

oil on canvas, 46x38,5 cm

-Anon. sale, Loudmer Paris, 23 March 1992, cat. no. 175. -Collection Galerie Beaubourg, Marianne and Pierre Nahon, Ventes. -Galerie Lasés, Amsterdam, where acquired by the present owner.

Literature: M.L. Borràs, 'Picabia', London 1985, p. 500, cat. no. 1149, illustrated. 'Francis Picabia Anthology', p. 195, cat. no. 124, illustrated in colour.

-Paris, Palais des Congrès, 'Picabia: dandy et héraut de l'art du XXe siècle', 1980-81, cat. no. 79. -Milan, Studio Marconi, 'Picabia, Opere 1898-1951', February - March 1986, cat. no. 48, illustrated in colour. -Florence, Galleria Vivita 1, 'Francis Picabia', 14 October - 10 December 1988, p. 47, illustrated in colour. -Montrouge, 39ème Salon de Montrouge, 'Picabia et Montrouge-Barcelone', April - May 1994, p. 56, illustrated in colour. -Lisbon, Centro Cultural de Belém, 'Francis Picabia antologia/anthology', 1997, p. 195, cat. no. 36, illustrated in colour. -Vence, Galerie Beaubourg, 'Picabia', July - October 1998.

The elusive and mercurial Francis Picabia (1879-1953) dedicated his life escaping any and every label that could possibly be put on him, whether it regarded his personal life or his artistic endeavours. In 1912 a New York Times critic called him the “Cuban who out-cubed the Cubists”, much to Picabia’s pleasure, as he loved to provoke and to play up his “exotic” background. Born in Paris to a wealthy Cuban father and a French mother with her own fortune, Picabia actually never fitted in any specific culture or art scene, nor could he or would he play the ‘poor Romantic painter’ card. After studying at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Picabia tries his hand at Impressionism, but whereas Monet and his colleagues work en plein air, Picabia uses postcards as inspiration. This approach is key to his art: he is playing with the assumptions and structures of a certain style, translating these into a ready-made style, and thus questioning the whole movement altogether. The next typical Picabia move is to then make a clean break and jump to a completely different style, while vehemently condemning the previous one. This procedure would become Picabia’s very trademark. Picabia’s career is one that covers most art movements of the first half of the 20th century. After a brief period of experimenting with Impressionism and Fauvism, he transitions to Cubism, only to denounce the latter again at the onset of World War I. During WWI Picabia spends quite some time in New York, then a haven for European artists escaping the war. Here he plays a catalytic role in bringing modern art to America. He dives head over heels into Dadaism together with his Dada friends Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. His Portraits Mécaniques, in which bodies morph into pistons and pumps, were exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291 while Stieglitz’s journal of the same name carries numerous other Picabia’s Dada contributions. Travelling between New York, Zürich and Barcelona, Picabia picks up new artistic ideas and art friends as new toys to play with, ever ready to let go of them as soon as he becomes captivated by new ones. By 1920 Dada slowly sizzles out and we see Picabia denounce the movement in his typical way with the cryptic statement: “I separated from Dada because I believe in happiness and I loathe vomiting; the smells of cooking make a rather unpleasant impression on me.” Dadaism is followed by a short fling with Surrealism while the frenzied mood of the 1920s and 1930s is reflected in Picabia’s skipping between abstraction, figuration and optical illusion on an almost daily basis. Time and time again he is playing with the fictional idea of originality and the boundaries of good taste. Materials like household paint, feathers and pasta are put to good use in his everlasting attempt to deliberately mock the holiness of a certain style. In 1937, Picabia’s work takes yet another surprising turn as he starts to produce realistic nude portraits. Subjects from soft-core pornographic magazines are worked over with smooth, fluid brushwork to imitate the sheen of photographic paper. Initially, their garish appearance was much frowned upon, decennia later to be connected with the work of Rauschenberg, Warhol and Koons and considered a tongue-in-cheek attack on mass media. After WWII Picabia leaves Southern France to return to Paris and although plagued by ill health during his final years, he keeps on working tirelessly. True to his fierceful dislike of consistency he creates hybrid works that merge the very disciplines he had previously helped shape. See the present lot (Jeudi/Thursday, no. 31) on sale, showing one of his latest works of 1951 and in itself reminiscent of a work by him of 1949, titled ‘Colloquium’. “Notre tête est ronde pour permettre à la pensée de changer de direction: Our heads are round so our thoughts can change direction”, is another famous quote by Picabia. In 2016 the Museum of Modern Art in New York took this citation as the title for its extensive exhibition of Picabia’s work. (MoMa, 2016-17). After having considered his manifold and capricious career we can see why. Impressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Realism: Picabia has been there and done that. As his friend Marcel Duchamp once said, his oeuvre was a ‘a kaleidoscopic series of art experiences’. Consistent in being inconsistent is one thing, but the true genius of Picabia does reveal itself if you try to look past Style with a capital S. With wispy watercolours on the one hand and kitschy photo-realism on the other, often in one and the same year, he is the first to push the boundaries between high art and low art, between delicate good taste and downright kitsch. Especially in this era where the premises of high art and low art are continuously being questioned, Picabia can be looked upon as a refreshing example who knew how to scramble elements of good and bad taste. Or, in his own words: “If you want to have clean ideas, change them like shirts.” -Francis Picabia: ‘the grasshopper of contemporary art’ in: Christies, stories, 18-02-2022, Francis Picabia: ‘the grasshopper of contemporary art’ | Christie’s (christies.com) -Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction / by Anne Umland et al. (Catalogue accompanying the major 2016 exhibition on the artist, jointly organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Kunsthaus Zürich. NY : MoMa, 2016 -Francis Picabia: the art ‘loser’ who ended up winning it all : an extravagant new retrospective of the avant-garde French-Cuban artist highlights often troubling yet always distinctive work / by Jason Farago, in: The Guardian 23-11-2016. -Dada and beyond: The many Artistic lives of Francis Picabia / by Albert Mobilio, in: New York Times 02-12-2016. -Francis Picabia, 1879-1953, MoMa, Art and artists, Francis Picabia | MoMA -Francis Picabia, awful artist and provocatuer of genius / by Michael Gibson, in: New York Times 21-12-2002 -Picabia / by W.A. Camfield, NY : Guggenheim Foundation, 1970

Voor deze kunstenaar is volgrecht van toepassing vanaf een hamerprijs van € 2400.

€ 50.000,00
€ 70.000,00
€ 170.000,00

Hamerprijs: € 170.000