Francis Picabia - Contemporary Art London Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection Olga Picabia, France; Galerie Neuendorf, Frankfurt; Galerie
    Hauser &Wirth, Zurich; Collection Urs Schmidhauser, Grub; Zwirner & Wirth, New York

  • Exhibited

    Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Royal Scottish Academy,
    July 30 - September 4, 1988; and Frankfurt/Main, Galerie Neuendorf, September 28 - November 5, 1988, Picabia, 1879 - 1953; New York, Panicali Fine Art, Francis Picabia Nudes, April - May, 1989; Zurich, Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Francis Picabia, Fleurs de chair, fleurs d’âme, Nus, Transparences, May 30 - July 19, 1997; Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Francis Picabia – The Late Works 1933 - 1953, October 30, 1997 - February 1, 1998; and Rotterdam, Museum Boijman Van
    Beuningen, February 28 - June 1, 1998, Francis Picabia – The Late Works 1933 - 1953

  • Literature

    Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, ed., Picabia, 1879-1953, Edinburgh,
    1988, cat. no. 57, p. 109 (illustrated); C. Troster, ed., Francis Picabia Nudes, NewYork, 1989, p. 23 (illustrated); Galerie Hauser & Wirth, ed., Francis Picabia, Fleurs de chair, fleurs d’âme, Nus, Transparences, Zurich, 1997, p. 98 (illustrated); Z. Felix and K. Kussmann, eds., Francis Picabia – The Late Works 1933 - 1953, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1998, p. 101 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Emerging in the early decades of the 20th Century, Francis Picabia’s artistic directions have intrigued the art world and forced critics and historians to evaluate the artist’s unique position in art history. Having first appeared on the art-radar as an Impressionist painter, Picabia, after making the acquaintance of Marcel Duchamp, swiftly found himself mingling with artists of New York’s Dada movement and befriending the likes of Walter and Louise Arensberg—influential American contemporary art collectors at the time. Perhaps most famous for his investigations into Dada, Picabia was an extremely prolific artist who carried his career with myriad creative sources. The present lot, La danseuse française, from 1944 is a striking composition and exemplified a stage in Picabia’s late artistic oeuvre, in which the artist’s expression of previous styles combine in a fantasy of feminity and taste.
    At the time of his first exposure inthe United States, through the 1936 exhibition organized b Gertrude Stein at the Art Institute of Chicago, Picabia’s new works, “were greeted with incomprehension by the critics. Undeterred, Picabia continued to paint in a realistic style, although he did not hesitate to create wholly abstract works at the same time. In the early 40s, by which time Picabia had been living in the South of France for a decade, there was yet another break in his work.” (Z. Felix and C. Dercon, Francis Picabia: The Late Works 1933 - 1953, Hamburg, 1998, pp. 7-8). While painting La danseuse française, the artist lived in the South of France and produced a series of veristic figure paintings (cf. Figure 1 for a similar example to the present lot, completed in 1935). Painting female nudes, which were based on Black and White photographs, from magazines such as ‘Paris Magazine’ and ‘Mon Paris’ (cf. Figure 2), La danseuse française is perhaps the epitome of his ever-changing directions – the culmination of all his artistic talent, never relinquishing his obtained knowledge from his past artistic path.
    Taking a certain ironic yet distant approach, the present lot employs Impressionist brushstroke techniques with the flamboyant figure of a ‘Can- Can’ dancer. According to French writer Carole Boulbès, his play with light and color enables his technique to display itself: “the painter must ‘make an intense study of the light conditions…[where] black outlines and the use of complementary colours to intensify the contrasts creates a powerful effect …”. (Z. Felix and C. Dercon, Francis Picabia: The Late Works 1933 – 1953, Hamburg, 1998, pp. 7-8). Besides the erotic, even voyeuristic aspect of the picture, it is possible to discover other levels of meaning in the work. Based on the exact image of a postcard, La danseuse française, is a prime example of his most acclaimed period in his artistic career. Detaching himself form the obvious elements of Dada, such as his machine drawings, it is the ‘Duchampian’ idea of the ‘ready-made’ that is the forceful factor in this painting. Basing the image on a pre-existing post-card, the idea of the ‘ready-made’ – this signature characteristic is the unique force that makes La danseuse française a master piece in its own right.
    Until recently paintings such as La danseuse française were regarded through the influence of scholars such as Clement Greenberg and his influential monograph ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’ simply as curiosities or ‘Kitsch’ material. However, at present the interpretation of Picabia’s work lies in placing the work within the context of his entire artistic ouevre, and brings to the foreground the artist’s unique place in art history as he crossed various painterly styes and methods to dazzling affect.
    “As the development of art in the last two decades has shown it is not only those artistic strategies that are concerned with incorporating popular images into the realm of art that prove to be a significance, but also those that ‘re cycle’ these same images.” (Z. Felix and C. Dercon, Francis Picabia: The Late Works 1933 - 1953, Hamburg, 1998, pp. 7-8) Even though Picabia has often been criticized for his inconsistent styles, it is perhaps through this inconsistency, that Picabia has excelled, implementing fundamental concepts such as the ‘ready-made’ nearly 30 years after Duchamp’s famous ‘Fountain’ form 1917, thus proving himself in fact as a pioneer in his field.
    La danseuse française evokes a period of history in which Picabia resided, a true portrait of Parisian society, the legacy of the Moulin Rouge, and the fantasy behind it all. The artist succeeds in capturing our imagination and we find ourselves transported to his inner sanctuary of creative origin, where he discovered the means to paint through artistic styles with his own devises. Picabia, standing center with TristanTzara, Philippe Soupault and Germaine Everling, circa 1920.

  • Artist Biography

    Francis Picabia

    Few members of the 20th Century avant-garde are as paradoxical as Francis Picabia. Though best known today for his work as a Dadaist, his oeuvre is characterized by the many disparate styles he switched embrace over the course of his fifty-year career. He first garnered attention for late Post-Impressionist works done in the style of Paul Signac but later assumed a Cubistic style as he participated in the advent of abstraction. Picabia then developed a more radical aesthetic through his friendships with leading members of the avant-garde like Marcel Duchamp, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Man Ray, creating mechanistic anatomies and Dadaist works that integrate text and refined abstract forms. He flirted next with Surrealism, creating dreamlike strata of layered imagery and later experimented with intentionally garish works based on found photos before rounding out his career by returning to expressions of pure abstraction. The only constant in Picabia’s career was his unwillingness to remain the same. 

    Picabia’s work has been widely celebrated during and after his lifetime with several significant retrospectives, including a landmark 2016 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Picabia’s work is held in the permanent collections of Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Tate, London, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.  

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La Danseuse Française (The French Dancer)

Oil on cardboard.
49 1/2 x 29 7/8 in. (125.7 x 75.9 cm).
Signed “Francis Picabia” lower right.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £311,200

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm