Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE FRENCH COLLECTION
Francis Picabia (1879-1953)

La fleur

Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
La fleur
signed 'Francis Picabia' (lower right)
oil on canvas
28 ¾ x 23 5/8 in. (73 x 60 cm.)
Painted circa 1934-1936
Olga Picabia, Paris, by descent from the artist, by 1954, until at least 1974.
Private collection, a gift from the above; sale, Sotheby’s, London, 22 October 1986, lot 157.
Acquired by the present owner in 1988.
M. L. Borràs, Picabia, London, 1985, no. 796, p. 532 (illustrated fig. 988, p. 444; with incorrect medium; dated 'circa 1943').
W.A. Camfield, B. Calté, C. Clements & A. Pierre, Francis Picabia, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, 1927-1939, New Haven & London, 2019, no. 1340, p. 325 (illustrated).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

The Comité Picabia has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
“The artistic career of Francis Picabia is a kaleidoscopic series of experiences. These barely appear to be related to one another from the outside, but they are all strongly marked by a strong personality. Throughout his fifty year-long œuvre, Picabia has consistently avoided carrying any labels …he has the perfect tool: a tireless imagination”
(M. Duchamp on F. Picabia, 1949)
La fleur, painted circa 1934-1936, perfectly conveys Picabia’s incredible versatility, and it is therefore difficult to date this work with certainty. While the painting has been known for a long time as executed in 1943, the Comité Picabia has recently dated it as ‘circa 1934-1936’. The abstract style of the composition suggests it may have been created slightly later, towards the end of the Second World War, but it is evident that the palette and the rough surface are more typical of the earlier works of the 1930s, to which era the present work belongs.
Picabia did much to define Dada in Paris and New York, and his reputation as one of the movement’s father figures has remained with him. But it is perhaps the spirit that the movement encouraged in him - his anarchic spirit and his disrespect for conventional abstract modern art - that has yielded his greatest legacy. The fact that Picabia worked in so many styles and techniques, and toward the end of his life did not seem to take any notice of distinctions between figurative and abstract, high and low, avant-garde and reactionary, does have a certain relevance to contemporary art making.
When painting La fleur Picabia made great use of his pictorial as well as plastic skills, adding layers upon layers of paint, to create a beautiful, thick surface that bears the artist’s distinctive, complex craquelure, which can be seen in several paintings of this period. It is a combination of drying cracks, wide, open and amorphous, and brittle fracture cracks which appear as thin linear cracks, appearing as a great example of Picabia’s mastery of the medium.

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