Lot 6
  • 6

Francis Picabia

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
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  • Francis Picabia
  • Au Théâtre
  • Signed Francis Picabia and dated 1935 (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 46 by 35 in.
  • 117 by 89 cm


Estate of the artist

Galerie Neuendorf, Frankfurt

Waddington Galleries Limited, London

Acquired from the above in June 1999


Brussels, Galerie Dellevoy, Francis Picabia, 1946

Brussels, Galerie Apollo, Picabia, 1950, no. 3

Marseille, Musée Cantini, Picabia, 1962, no. 58

Newcastle, Hatton Gallery & London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Francis Picabia, 1964, no. 36

Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 1976, no. 206, illustrated in the catalogue

Brussels, Musée d'Ixelles, Picabia 1879-1953, 1983, no. 66, illustrated in color in the catalogue

New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Francis Picabia, 1983, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue

Kunsthalle Düsseldorf & Kunsthaus Zürich, Francis Picabia, 1983-84, no. 142, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Picabia, 1984, no. 129, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Madrid, Salas Pablo Ruiz Picasso & Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Caixa de Pensions, Francis Picabia, 1879-1953, 1985, no. 122, illustrated in color in the catalogue (dated 1935-37)

Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art at the Royal Scottish Academy & Frankfurt, Galerie Neuendorf, Francis Picabia, 1988, no. 61, illustrated in color in the catalogue (dated 1935 and circa 1945-46)


William A. Camfield, Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, no. 368, illustrated

Maria Lluisa Borras, Picabia, New York, 1985, no. 1046, illustrated p. 476

Catalogue Note

Au Théâtre pulsates with an energy particular to Picabia's war-time oeuvre. The artist began work on this painting during the 1930s, only to complete it in the aftermath of the war.  Picabia's original composition remains visible through the intentional craquelure that appears across the surface of the picture. The final product exemplifies the luminary status Picabia would assume for future generations of artists as the concept of abstraction took hold. Building upon the Dadaist vernacular of his earlier years, Picabia created a novel formal language in the 1940s. Michel Seuphor wrote in an introduction to a 1948 exhibition of Picabia's work at the Galerie des Deux Iles in Paris, "The cycle is complete. Picabia has refound the sap of the Dada epoch, the same disengagement, the same anti-painting painting... In the ascending generations it is he again who shows the road of complete liberty" (quoted in William A. Camfield, op. cit., pp. 270-71).

Picabia derives the subject matter in the present work from his weekly visits to the Bal Nègre and other theatrical performances in Paris. On Saturday nights from 10 pm until dawn, Picabia would frequent these shows which featured exotic dancers from Martinique. He was joined in these ventures by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Picabia was clearly inspired by the swirl of movement that these performances embodied and sought to capture this dynamism in a manner that evokes the earlier masterworks of Italian Futurists such as Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini. Picabia breaks away from their reliance upon naturalism, codifying his subject-matter into a series of interlocking shapes and symbols. The result is a comingling of representation and abstraction that characterizes the inception of a coming revolution in European art. Artists such as Hans Hartung and Wols will turn to his example in their groundbreaking works from the 1940s. Au théatre captures the fervency of this crucial transition with monumentality and assurance.