The Comité Picabia has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Throughout his varied career, the female figure played a central role in Picabia’s oeuvre. From his Dadaist depictions of sexualized and anthropomorphic mechanical forms, to his gruesomely rendered Monster Transparencies of the 1930s depicting classical female figures, Picabia used the depiction of women-and particularly the inference of eroticism-to confound and shock the viewer, disrupting the accepted notions of taste and mocking the pretensions of the Parisian avant-garde. Born in France to a Spanish father and a French mother, Picabia showed his first portraits of Spanish women at the Danthon Gallery in May 1923, only a few months after the end of his participation in the Dada movement. This would be a theme to which the artist would continually return throughout the remainder of his life. Picabia had been one of the most radical and experimental Dada artists, however at this stage in his career, he returns to a longstanding pictorial tradition, referencing the greats Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Diego Velázquez, and Edouard Manet (fig. 1), an act of rebellion in itself.
In Séville, the viewer is confronted by a striking woman, donning an ornate floral skirt, her head covered in a lace mantilla. She holds flowers in her hand, and perches on a chair underneath an arch, stoically observing the world as it passes her by. In a distinctly modernist fashion, reminiscent of Manet, the painting tells no story or anecdote; the protagonist is frozen, as if isolated in an interior dream. This work reveals Picabia’s complete artistic freedom, not hesitating to utilize popular and almost dated imagery, in opposition to the aesthetics of the avant-garde. Picabia here engages a new challenge: provocation by the return to formal academicism. The present lot reinforces Picabia’s personal attachment to the subject of Spanish women, while maintaining the defiantly individual stance with which he approached his art throughout his career, refusing to conform to prevailing styles and continuously inverting elitist rules of taste.
(fig. 1) Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Majas on a Balcony, circa 1800-1810. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.