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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection


signed 'Francis Picabia' (lower left) and titled 'SUZY' (lower right)
oil on canvas
36 3⁄8 x 28 ¾ in. (92.3 x 73 cm.)
Painted circa 1933-1936
Suzy Solidor, Paris and Cagnes-sur-Mer (acquired from the artist).
Arturo Schwarz, Milan (by 1971, until 1983).
Mary Boone Gallery, New York and Michael Werner Gallery, Cologne and New York (by 1983).
Gian Enzo Sperone, Turin and New York and Laura Carpenter, Dallas and New York (acquired from the above, 1984).
Julian Schnabel, New York (acquired from the above, by 1995).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 16 September 2009.
W.A. Camfield, Francis Picabia, Paris, 1972, pp. 41 and 80, no. 30 (illustrated in color).
W.A. Camfield, Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, pp. 245-246, no. 357 (illustrated).
B. Blistène, "Francis Picabia: In Praise of the Contemptible" in Flash Art, no. 113, summer 1983, pp. 26 and 30 (illustrated, p. 26; dated 1933).
M.-L. Borras, Picabia, New York, 1985, pp. 379, 398 and 526, no. 613 (illustrated, p. 398, fig. 800).
Z. Felix, ed., Francis Picabia: Das Spätwerk 1933-1953, exh. cat., Deichtorhallen Hamburg, 1997, p. 35 (illustrated in color).
D. Rimanelli, "The Nude Stripped Bare" in Tate Etc., no. 5, fall 2005, p. 37 (illustrated in color, p. 36; dated 1933).
B. Marcadé, "More Powerful, More Simple, More Human" in Francis Picabia: Our Heads are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016, pp. 207-208 (illustrated in color, fig. 2).
B. Calté, W.A. Camfield, C. Clements and A. Pierre, Francis Picabia: Catalogue raisonné, 1927-1939, Brussels, 2019, vol. III, pp. 294-295, no. 1267 (illustrated in color, p. 294).
Milan, Galleria Schwarz, Francis Picabia, June-September 1972, pp. 41 and 80, no. 30 (illustrated in color, p. 41; dated 1933).
Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Francis Picabia: Mezzo secolo di avanguardia, November 1974-February 1975, no. 70 (illustrated; dated circa 1935).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Francis Picabia, January-March 1976, pp. 160 and 190, no. 200 (illustrated, p. 160).
Parma, Galleria d'Arte Niccoli, Francis Picabia, October 1981 (illustrated in color; dated 1933).
New York, Mary Boone and Michael Werner Gallery, Francis Picabia, September-October 1983 (illustrated in color; dated 1933).
Düsseldorf, Städtischen Kunsthalle and Kunsthaus Zürich, Francis Picabia, October 1983-March 1984, p. 179, no. 101 (illustrated in color; dated 1933).
Madrid, Salas Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Francis Picabia: Exposición antológica, January-March 1985, pp. 178 and 369, no. 112 (illustrated in color, p. 178; dated 1933).
Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio Gonzáles and Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Francis Picabia: Máquinas y Españolas, October-March 1996, p. 129 (illustrated in color; dated 1933).
Musée de Grenoble, Francis Picabia: Les nus et la méthode, October 1998-January 1999, pp. 27 and 99, no. 1 (illustrated in color, p. 26; dated 1933).
New York, Sperone Westwater, A Triple Alliance: Giorgio de Chirico, Francis Picabia, Andy Warhol, January-February 2004, pp. 7-8 and 66-67 (illustrated in color, p. 67; titled Portrait of Suzy Solidor and dated 1933; with incorrect support).

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted circa 1933-1936, Francis Picabia’s Suzy is a playful depiction of the legendary cabaret performer, singer and actress Suzy Solidor, who became a household name in Paris during the early 1930s. Known for her risqué, modern take on traditional sea shanties, Solidor was an infamous character within the city’s entertainment world, a flamboyant performer who reveled in her own celebrity persona. Formerly in the collection of painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, Suzy not only records the starlet at the height of her fame, but also offers a glimpse into Picabia’s evolving aesthetic during this period, as he shifted towards a new style of painting that would come to dominate his oeuvre over the course of the following decade.
Born Suzanne Marion in 1900, Solidor spent her youth in the sea-side town of Saint-Malo in Brittany. Possessing a rebellious streak and an unwillingness to enter domestic service like her mother, she left home at the age of seventeen to train as a driver with the ambulance corps during the First World War, before setting off for Paris in search of fame and fortune. She initially fell in with the circle around the antiques dealer Yvonne de Bremond d’Ars and modelled couture swimwear by fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin, before striking out on her own in the entertainment business. By the end of the 1920s she was among the best-known cabaret singers in the city, favoring a repertoire of tunes about seducing women that were typically performed by men. Taking her stage name from the Tour de Solidor which kept watch over the harbor of her hometown Saint-Malo, she appeared on radio, on stage, in magazines and gossip columns, and even several early films, including La Garçonne alongside Edith Piaf. Central to Solidor’s notoriety was her glamorous persona, bold personality and very public love affairs with both men and women—indeed, she recorded an entire album called Paris-Lesbien, and several of her songs became anthems among Paris’s gay community. She was also keenly aware of the power of her image, actively cultivating her persona through promotional photography and portraiture, inviting hundreds of avant-garde artists to paint her likeness.
Solidor is believed to have sat for almost 250 portraits over the course of her lifetime, created by an eclectic mix of artists, working in a variety of different styles, idioms and media, from Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita to Francis Bacon, Jean Cocteau to Kees van Dongen. These pictures filled the walls of La Vie Parisienne, the cabaret club on the edge of the city’s exclusive first arrondissement where she presided and performed nightly through the 1930s and early 1940s, and later her establishment in Haut de Cagnes. Clustered on every available surface, filling the walls “from the cash register to the washroom,” the portraits were a key tool within Solidor’s strategy of self-promotion and character building (Solidor, quoted in T.T. Latimer, Women Together/Women Apart: Portraits of Lesbian Paris, New Brunswick, 2005, p. 106). The paintings were particularly concentrated around the stage, so that when Solidor took her place beneath the spotlights each evening, both she and her patrons were confronted, at every turn, by her reflection like “a series of distorting mirrors” (ibid., p. 125). For the myriad artists who captured her likeness, the invitation to paint the infamous chanteuse represented a remarkable opportunity for publicity, as she travelled with her collection wherever she performed, and held elaborate champagne receptions to unveil each new portrait upon its completion. However, it could also be a double edged sword—Solidor was known to relegate any paintings she felt were less successful or unflattering to the confines of the club’s cloakroom, publicly slighting the respective painter in the process.
Together, the vast array of depictions offered a kaleidoscopic view of the many different characters and personas Solidor embodied, shifting from sultry chanteuse to innocent young ingenue, glamorous Parisian socialite to a mysterious, mythical creature, half-woman, half-mermaid. In Picabia’s Suzy, the artist presents a more playful side to her persona. Solidor and Picabia enjoyed a close friendship through the early 1930s, and he painted her several times during these years. In the present iteration, Picabia leans into Solidor’s starlet persona as she poses nude, her face fully made-up for a performance, gazing out directly towards the viewer. Cast in dramatic lighting, there is a new sense of physicality and solidity in the artist’s treatment of the body, while Solidor appears vivacious and animated, as if the artist has recorded her amusement at a joke he has just told. Inscribing her first name vertically along the right hand edge of the canvas in a manner that recalls contemporary advertising and promotional photography, Picabia emphasizes her celebrity allure, recalling the manner in which her name would have appeared in lights on a theatre marquee. As such, Suzy may be seen as a prelude to Picabia’s paintings of pin-ups, celebrities and models that occupied him intensely through the late 1930s and 1940s, appropriating popular culture and kitsch imagery in a way that would prove highly influential to a generation of young artists in the Post-War era, from Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, to Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and later, Jeff Koons.

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