Galerie Le Chanjour, Nice
Private Collection, Switzerland
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 7th February 2006, lot 65
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 3rd February 2009, lot 22
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
In Lunis, three female faces along with natural elements including exotic birds, butterflies and foliage all combine in a dizzy celebration of the subconscious. In this series of works, Picabia often chose titles evocative of Biblical characters and Greco-Roman mythology. In the majority of the cases, however, they were inventions of his own taken from the Atlas de poche des papillons de France, Suisse et Belgique by Paul Girod. This small volume, found in the artist’s library, also explains the motif of butterflies in the present work.
Besides natural phenomena, Picabia’s Transparences also draw their inspiration from the art of the past, often combining multiple references in a single composition. As part of his rejection of the aesthetic of shock and abstraction that had characterised his Dada years, Picabia now embraced a figurative manner of painting that resulted in images of a mysterious, contemplative nature. At the time the present work was executed, Botticelli’s painting was among his primary sources of inspiration, and the three graces of his Primavera (fig. 1) are certainly echoed in Lunis. Despite the wealth of artistic, cultural and natural references, the meanings of the Transparences remain deliberately obscure and ambiguous, and their power lies in their evocative beauty and elegance of execution.
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