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Le bouquet, Saint-Tropez

Le bouquet, Saint-Tropez
signed and dated 'Picabia 1909' (lower right); signed and dated again and titled 'F. Picabia Le Bouquet St. Tropez 1909' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
35 ¼ x 45 ¾ in. (89.2 x 116.2 cm.)
Painted in January-February 1909
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 29 October 1948, lot 111.
Len Mence, New York (by 1963).
Anon. sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 9 January 1964, lot 130.
Acquired by the family of the present owner, circa 1985.
M.L. Borràs, Picabia, New York, 1985, p. 82, no. 180 (illustrated in color).
W.A. Camfield, Francis Picabia: A Study of His Career From 1895 to 1918, Ph.D. diss, Yale University, New Haven, 1964, p. 68 (illustrated, fig. 51; titled Portrait de Madame Picabia).
W.A. Camfield, B. Calté, C. Clements and A. Pierre, Francis Picabia: Catalogue raisonné, 1898-1914, New Haven, 2014, vol. I, p. 289, no. 364 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Exposition de tableaux par F. Picabia, March 1909, p. 8, no. 9.

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Lot Essay

Picabia's painting of his wife, Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia, dates to their honeymoon in Saint-Tropez. Shortly after their marriage in January 1909, the newlyweds traveled to the south of France, where Picabia continued to practice his art. In this large-scale, polychromatic portrait, Picabia depicted his bride in a lavender robe, arranging a bouquet of flowers in a blue and red porcelain vase against a patterned wallpaper of pale silver and gold. This radiant spectrum of color is punctuated by Gabrielle's onyx-black hair, arranged into a loose knot. As W. Camfield has observed, Picabia's hybrid painting style during this phase was a "syntheses of Fauvism and older styles", such as Impressionism (Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, p. 14). This unique fusion of styles is on display in the present work. The bold colors, aesthetic and brushwork of the painting remind us of Henri Matisse’s L'Algérienne at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, painted the same year.
Picabia's portrait of Gabrielle was also informed by Japonisme, the nineteenth and twentieth-century French fascination with Japanese art. The influx of ukiyo-e prints (Japanese woodblock impressions, often representing beautiful women in elegant interiors) into the European art market inspired Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Vincent van Gogh and many others to produce their own paintings and prints. Modern artists embraced the flattened forms and unexpected juxtapositions of color, pattern and texture that characterized Japanese prints, and often borrowed some elements of their material culture: kimono robes, painted fans and porcelain vases. Monet, for example, also painted his young wife Camille in the guise of a Japonaise (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
Gabrielle and Francis twenty year union produced four children but ultimately ended in divorce in 1930. After their separation Picabia continued to try on new artistic identities—Surrealist, Cubist and more—and earned global recognition for his polymorphic work until his death in 1953. Gabrielle also went on to live a long and eventful life. During World War II, she joined the French Resistance, undermining the German Occupation. She continued to write art criticism throughout the post-war period and died in 1985 at the age of 104.

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