signed Francis Picabia (lower right) and titled (upper left)
The present work belongs to a group of paintings known as Transparences that Picabia executed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, deriving their name from multiple layers of overlapping imagery. In this painting, the image is composed of three female faces seen from a variety of different aspects. The faces are surrounded by a variety of organic forms, characteristic of the natural world Picabia often incorporated in his Transparences. These images, simultaneously transparent and opaque, are manipulated by Picabia in scale and orientation in such a way as to create a seemingly impenetrable allegory with characteristics of a dream or a mystic vision.
Besides natural phenomena, Picabia's Transparences also draw their inspiration from Romanesque frescoes, Renaissance painting and Catalan art. In addition, the artist often treated surfaces of his compositions in such a way as to give them an aged feel. Rich in cultural references, these paintings combine their varied images into compositions of great beauty and harmony. Following his experimentation with Dada and abstraction, in the 1920s Picabia turned away from the aesthetic of shock towards a kind of 'renaissance', creating figurative images of mysterious, contemplative beauty. Despite the wealth of artistic, cultural and natural references, the meanings of the transparencies remain deliberately obscure and ambiguous, and their power lies in their evocative beauty and elegance of execution.
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