Lot 2
  • 2

Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Diego Rivera
  • Sans titre (composition cubiste)
  • Signed with the initials D.M.R. (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 21 5/8 by 18 1/4 in.
  • 55 by 46.5 cm
  • Painted circa 1916.


M. Fillioux, Cannes (acquired by circa 1951)
Private Collection, Paris (by descent from the above)
Acquired from the above

Catalogue Note

As a young artist, Diego Rivera traveled to Europe to continue the artistic training that he had begun at a young age in his native Mexico. He lived in Paris for over a decade where he was immersed in the world of young artists who had gathered from all over the globe, living with and marrying his first wife a Russian named Angeline Beloff in 1909. In 1914 Rivera met Pablo Picasso. Describing their first meeting, Rivera stated: “I went to Picasso’s studio intensely keyed up. My feelings were like those of the good Christian who expects to meet Our Lord, Jesus Christ…. Picasso asked me to stay and have lunch with him, after which he went back with me to my studio. There he asked to see everything I had done from the beginning to the end…. After I had shown Picasso these paintings, we had dinner together and stayed up practically the whole night talking. Our theme was Cubism—what it was trying to accomplish, what it had already done, and what future it had as a ‘new’ art form” (quoted in Diego Rivera, Art & Revolution (exhibition catalogue), Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston & Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, 1999-2000, p. 105).

The artist's cubist works are often compared to those of Picasso and indeed, after this first meeting in 1914, Rivera and Picasso formed a strong friendship. Martín Luis Guzmán wrote in 1915 about the differences between Picasso and Rivera's work stating “Although an enthusiast and admirer of Picasso, Rivera follows his own road. Not in vain did he nourish and make flower the preoccupations produced in his soul by the work of El Greco. Betweeen a painting by Rivera and one by Picasso there is as much distance as between a mountain and a forest: in one (Rivera’s) matter splits and rends the air, in the other (Picasso’s) the air flows softly through the matter. Flexible, vaporous, and whispering is Picasso; sudden, dominant, and firm is Rivera. Rivera was born in Anáhuac; what he first learned to see were its mountains” (quoted in Diego Rivera, The Cubist Years (exhibition catalogue), Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix; IBM Gallery of Science and Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco & Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City, 1984-85, p. 110).

Professor Luis-Martín Lozano, the director of the Museo de Arte Moderno de México, has studied Sans titre (composition cubiste) in detail. Regarding the composition itself he wrote, "This still life is a magnificent example of the degree to which Rivera reached a conceptual, theoretical and formal purification of Cubism by 1916. In this sense it is related, chromatically and conceptually, with another little-known Cubist work by Rivera, La Bouteille d’anis, executed in late 1915 in a slightly larger format. Again Diego Rivera has chosen to focus on the use of chromatic space, positive and negative. Here we have a bottle set on a table with a cube that appears to rotate on an axis. Moreover the profile of the shadow of the bottle, which is set in a deep mahogany tone, creates the illusion of a pendulum-like motion of the bottle…the purity of the composition is preserved in the seemingly dissimilar objects such as a piece of fruit and a glass, in the same white tones of the background, as if they were drawn without dimension, a very eloquent exercise for the eye on the neutral surface textures."