Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more VISIONARIES: WORKS FROM THE EMILY AND JERRY SPIEGEL COLLECTION
Francis Picabia (1879-1953)

Adam et Eve

Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
Adam et Eve
signed 'Francis Picabia' (lower left)
oil on board
41 1/2 x 29 5/8 in. (105.5 x 75.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1941-1942.
Private collection, Paris
Robert Fraser Gallery, London, 1966
Waddington and Tooth Galleries, Ltd., London
Anon. sale; Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, 01 July 1981, lot 229
Private collection
Mary Boone and Michael Werner, New York, 1983
Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1989
W. A. Camfield, Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, no. 390 (illustrated; with incorrect support).
M. L. Borràs, Picabia, New York, 1985, pp. 439 and 531, no. 766, fig. 953 (illustrated; with incorrect support).
I. Sandler, Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s, Boulder, 1996, pp. xvi and 285, fig. 127 (illustrated; with incorrect support).
"Francis Picabia," Art Magazine, Hamburg, October 2002, p. 23 (illustrated; with incorrect support).
Paris, Jean Larcade, Pop Por Pop Corn Corny, June-August 1965.
Leverkusen, Städtische Museum Schloss Morsbroich and Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Francis Picabia, February-June 1967.
New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Francis Picabia, September-October 1983 (illustrated).
Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Francis Picabia, October-December 1983, pp. 25 and 181, no. 125 (illustrated in color; with incorrect support).
Kunsthaus Zürich, Francis Picabia, February-March 1984, no. 2.
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Picabia, April-May 1984, pp. 8 and 16, no. 192 (illustrated).
Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, Seibu Takanawa, Francis Picabia, July-October 1984, no. 70 (illustrated in color; with incorrect support).
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Frankfurt, Galerie Neuendorf, Picabia, July-November 1988, pp. 107 and 148, no. 55 (illustrated in color; with incorrect support).
New York, Panicali Fine Art Gallery, Picabia Nudes, April-May 1989, pp. 30-31 and 41 (illustrated in color; with incorrect support).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction, November 2016-March 2017, pp. 231 and 357, pl. 182 (illustrated in color; with incorrect support).
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Sale room notice
This work is accompanied by a photo certificate from the Comité Picabia.

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Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

The Comité Picabia has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

“The painter makes a choice, then imitates it; the deformation of this choice constitutes art.” Francis Picabia

In Francis Picabia’s Adam et Ève a statuesque woman stands naked, towering over her male companion. As she runs her fingers seductively through her tussles of black hair, a man, also naked, sits at her feet, resting on his outstretched arm and staring into the middle distance, deep in his own thoughts, untroubled by the presence of his female companion. A strategically placed flower covers the woman’s modesty, although it’s unfurling petals and prominent stigma do nothing to dampen the erotic charge that pervades the image. Using an image from a soft-core pornographic magazine as his source, in Adam et Ève Picabia elevates mass-media and photography to the realm of high art. These playfully parodic works are often considered to be among the very first ”postmodern” pictures, pre-empting the work of Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter and even, in his blatant embrace of kitsch, Picabia has also be seen to prefigure Jeff Koons.

Adam et Ève belongs to a series of paintings that the artist began in the early 1930s. The appropriation of mass media had been a central part of the artist’s oeuvre since World War I when he began to use images taken from scientific magazines and journals to produce a series of works on paper featuring a variety of mechanical contraptions such as Ici, c’est ici Stieglitz (Here, This is Stieglitz Here), 1915 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). These “machine drawings” are regarded by some scholars as the beginnings of Dadaism, even though the movement didn’t officially come into being until a year later with the publication of the Dada Manifesto in Zürich. They were inspired by a visit that Picabia made to New York in the summer of 1915. “This visit to America…” he said, “has brought about a complete change in my methods of work… The machine has become more than an adjunct of human life. It is really a part of human life—perhaps the very soul. In seeking forms in which to interpret ideas or by which to expose human characteristics I have come at length upon the form which appears most brilliantly plastic and fraught with symbolism. I have enlisted the machinery of the modern world, and introduced it into my studio” (F. Picabia, quoted in P. Karmel, “Francis Picabia, 1915: The Sex of a New Machine,” in S. Greenhough, Modern Art in America: Alfred Stieglitz and His Galleries, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., 2000, p. 203). The French critic Arnuad Pierre concludes that the appropriation that inspired Picabia’s wartime paintings, such as the present example, are the continuation of these earlier machine inspired Dadaist works (Ibid.).

Beginning with his 1937 canvas Femme au châle vert (Woman with a Green Shawl) in which Picabia paints a seductive portrait of a naked young women shown removing her shawl to reveal her naked body, the artist scoured magazines such as Mon Paris, Paris-Magazine, Paris Sex Appeal and Paris Plaisir to procure images that he thought suitable. He would then appropriate the original source with his mixture of paint handling techniques—ranging from smooth applications for the skin tones to more expressionistic brushwork for more abstract areas such as fabric or backdrops settings. This is a theme that would run throughout these wartime paintings and in the present work manifests itself in the smooth fluid marks which mimic the shiny photographic paper of the original, to the brushy pigment used to denote the background (the bright blue sky and white, fluffy clouds etc.) and the strong, overlapping staccato brushstrokes which emphasize the tonal highlights of the skin.

Picabia’s wartime pictures have held an uneasy place in the artist’s oeuvre due to their apparent aesthetic similarities to the Nazi approved paintings from the second World War. However beginning in the 1980s they went a critical reappraisal, due in part to an international exhibition of the artist’s works from this period that travelled to museums throughout Europe. In 1983 Adam et Ève itself was included in an exhibition at the Mary Boone / Michael Werner Galley in New York where the respected scholar Robert Rosenblum described them as “…a rebellious dissatisfaction with idées reçues of modern art’s hierarchy” (R. Rosenblum, quoted by M. Cone, ibid. pp. 226-227). He then compared their painterly style favorably with that of artists such as Eric Fischl (and later John Currin) who were establishing themselves at the forefront of the return of figurative art in to the 1980s and 1990s New York art historical canon.
Long before Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons embraced appropriation, Francis Picabia wryly played with the concepts of artistic authorship and individual skill that were to become among the central doctrines of modern painting. His defiantly anti modernist style demonstrates his lifelong and unremitting predilection for overturning conventions of the avant-garde and in so doing, pursuing new and radical approaches to art and art making, which paved the way for future generations of artists.

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