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Sans titre (Garçon à la cruche)

Sans titre (Garçon à la cruche)
signed and dated 'Francis Picabia 1935' (lower centre)
oil on canvas
28 ¾ x 36 ¼ in. (73.2 x 92 cm.)
Painted in 1935
The artist, until at least 1936.
Robert Miller Gallery, New York, by 1984.
Private collection, United Kingdom, by 1999.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 5 February 2008, lot 385.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie's, London, 5 February 2009, lot 453.
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale.
M.L. Borràs, Picabia, New York, 1985, no. 639, pp. 381 & 527 (illustrated fig. 820, p. 402; titled 'Composition').
W.A. Camfield, B. Calté, C. Clements & A. Pierre, Francis Picabia, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, 1927-1939, New Haven & London, 2019, no. 1317, p. 316 (illustrated p. 317; detail illustrated p. 316).
M. Merrony, ed., Mougins Museum of Classical Art, Mougins, 2011, no. 39, p. 332 (illustrated; titled 'Composition' and with incorrect dimensions).
State, Hot and Cool Art, no. 15, London, September - October 2014, n.p. (illustrated in situ).
'Le MACM rayonne à l'international', in Mougins, June 2017, n.p. (illustrated in situ).
M. Squire, 'A Passionate Collector', in Minerva: The International Review of Ancient Art & Archaeology, vol. 29, no. 2, London, March - April 2018, p. 19 (illustrated fig. 10; titled 'Composition' and with incorrect dimensions).
Ancient Warfare, vol. XIII, no. 6, Rotterdam, June - July 2020, n.p. (illustrated in situ).
Ancient History, no. 28, Rotterdam, June - July 2020, n.p. (illustrated in situ).
Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Paintings by Francis Picabia, January 1936, no. 8, n.p. (titled 'Composition').
London, King's College London, The Classical Now, March - April 2018, no. 185, p. 191 (illustrated p. 185; with inverted dimensions).
Musée d'Art Classique de Mougins, 2011-2023 (Inv. no. MMoCA55MA).
Further details
The Comité Picabia has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Brought to you by

Claudio Corsi
Claudio Corsi Specialist, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Born in Paris in 1879, the son of a Cuban diplomat, Francis Picabia studied at the Écoles des Arts Decoratifs, where his peers included Georges Braque and Marie Laurencin. Picabia’s artistic career was endlessly innovative, described by his contemporaries, such as Marcel Duchamp, as a ‘kaleidoscopic series of art experiences’ (M. Duchamp, 'Francis Picabia,' in K. Dreier & M. Duchamp, Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1950, p. 4).

Indeed, Picabia continuously experimented with an extensive range of artistic styles and genres- from Impressionism and Cubism, to Dada and Surrealism. Rarely adhering to one style for more than a few years, he was profoundly influenced by nascent artistic movements, both in Paris and abroad. As Picabia famously affirmed, ‘what I like is to invent, to imagine, to make of myself at every moment a new man, and then, to forget him, to forget everything’ (F. Picabia quoted in E. Lunday, ‘Francis Picabia’s Chameleonic Style’, JSTOR Daily, 15 February 2017,

In the mid-1920s, Picabia moved to the town of Mougins in the south of France along with his then partner, Germaine Everling, and their son, Lorenzo. Other legendary artists would follow over the coming years, including Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger.

It was shortly after his arrival in the Cote d’Azur, that Picabia began his celebrated Transparencies paintings, a series of works so named for their simultaneous depiction of multiple transparent images, layered atop one another in an effect reminiscent of multiple-exposure photography. These were elusive compositions, the imagery of which was typically drawn from a range of sources, including classical mythology, Renaissance painting and Catalan frescoes, found in the lustrous collection of art books that Picabia kept in his studio. Across the Transparencies series, faces, bodies and nature intertwine amidst sensuous lines to create an otherworldly pictorial space, devoid of the traditional laws of perspective, in which the figures float and overlap one another in an almost ethereal manner.

Formally, the present work alludes to the Transparencies in the thick, curving black lines that outline the figure’s idealised form. The background, with its rich tones conjuring an inscrutable space, is likewise redolent of the mystical, layered backgrounds of the iconic series. Yet, as Maria Lluïsa Borràs notes, the present work transcends these qualities- and it is for this reason that she places Sans titre (Garçon à la cruche) among a new kind of ‘poster’ painting, where, among other advances, Picabia’s masterful handling of the painted surface creates a ‘subtly nuanced patina suggestive of age’ (M.L. Borràs, Picabia, New York, 1985, p. 381).

In surpassing the traditional Transparencies, Picabia succeeds in synthesising numerous influences, powerfully affirming his complex and highly celebrated artistic identity. Thus, reminiscent of classical scenes adorning traditional Greek and Roman amphoras, the protagonist, with a loosely draped robe over his right shoulder, leans forward, seemingly reaching for something outside of the pictorial edge, clutching a large jug in his left hand. His idealised, muscular form is further defined by subtle chiaroscuro, again alluding to the classical tradition.

Exemplifying Picabia’s ability to move seamlessly between artistic styles and challenging any notion of continuity across his storied oeuvre, Sans titre (Garçon à la cruche) is a powerful example of the artist’s restless and endlessly inventive spirit.

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