2 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more

Geai bleu

Geai bleu
signed ‘Francis Picabia’ (lower left); inscribed ‘GEAI BLEU’ (upper right)
oil on board
41 5⁄8 x 32 in. (105.6 x 81 cm.)
Painted circa 1938-1939
The artist, until at least 1949.
Anonymous sale, Espace Cardin, Paris, 27 April 1981, lot 135.
Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg & Frankfurt.
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.
Waddington Galleries, London (no. B21194), by 1990.
Galerie Patrice Trigano, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York, by whom acquired from the above, circa 2003.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
W.A. Camfield, B. Calté, C. Clements & A. Pierre, Francis Picabia, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, 1927-1939, New Haven & London, 2019, no. 1552, p. 405 (illustrated).
New York, Mary Boone-Michael Werner, Francis Picabia, September - October 1983, unnumbered list (illustrated).
Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Francis Picabia, October - December 1983, no. 166, p. 184 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Zurich, Kunsthaus, February - March 1984, no. 169; and Stockholm, Moderna Museet, April - May 1984, no. 153, p. 87 (dated '1948').
London, Waddington Galleries, Francis Picabia, September 1990, no. 16, pp. 38 & 55 (illustrated p. 39; with incorrect medium and dated 'circa 1948).
Paris, Galerie Patrice Trigano, Destins Croisés: Picabia, Carmen Calvo, October - November 2002, no. 14 (illustrated).
New York, Sperone Westwater, A Triple Alliance: Giorgio de Chirico, Francis Picabia, Andy Warhol, January - February 2004, pp. 7 & 68-69 (illustrated).
Zurich, Hauser & Wirth, Alexander Calder, Francis Picabia: Transparence, June - July 2015, no. 84 (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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Olivier Camu
Olivier Camu Deputy Chairman, Senior International Director

Lot Essay

As the 1930s drew to a close, Francis Picabia returned, once again, to the idea of superimposition and transparency in his work, exploring the surreal potential of multiple inter-lapping and converging images within a single painting. The artist had first experimented with these concepts in the late 1920s, creating his renowned Transparence paintings, a series of works named for their simultaneous depiction of multiple transparent images, layered atop one another in an effect reminiscent of multiple-exposure photography. Combining to create an illusionistic and seemingly impenetrable allegory with all the characteristics of a dream or a mystic vision, these paintings confounded traditional reading, and seemed rooted in the artist’s highly personal language of signs.

These extraordinary works were often interpreted by contemporary commentators within the context of the cinema – for example, Gaston Ravel exclaimed excitedly about the first transparencies: ‘The multiple impressions we have used, and abused, in our films... are here... immobilised by his magic brush!... at first glance, some confusion perhaps; but, little by little, everything comes clear, slowly... It is a miracle! it is an enchantment... an homage, involuntary perhaps, rendered to the cinema’ (quoted in W. Camfield, Francis Picabia: His art, life and times, New York, 1979, p. 233).

However, unlike the frenetic, multi-layered, overlapping surfaces of his earlier Transparences, where outlines bled into one another and converged in an often confusing mass of complex intertwining forms, the canvases from the 1930s illustrate a growing refinement of Picabia’s vision. Favouring more legible images with fewer layers, the artist’s compositions from these years focus on the simplified forms of just two or three elements, captured in strong bold outlines and bright colours, which he then superimposed atop one another in a carefully considered pattern. In Geai bleu, a heraldic looking bird occupies the centre of the canvas, its multicoloured form and dramatic outline lending it an even greater presence within the scene. Beneath, a decorative green and orange shape echoes the organic forms of a leaf or plant, while simultaneously suggesting a pair of wings with which the blue-jay has taken flight. The final layer, executed in a bold red and black pigment and hovering above the bird, reveals that Picabia drew inspiration for these works from the illustrations of a much-thumbed compendium on Catalan Romanesque art, which he had consulted sporadically for over a decade in search of intriguing motifs.

More from The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale

View All
View All