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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION

Francis Picabia
ARTEMIS
JUMP TO LOT
16

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION

Francis Picabia
ARTEMIS
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Modernités : de Rodin à Soulages

|
Paris

Francis Picabia
1879 - 1953
ARTEMIS
titled ARTEMIS (upper left) and signed Francis Picabia (upper right)
oil on canvas
89,2 x 116,8 cm; 35 1/8 by 46 in.
Painted in 1929. 
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This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Comité Picabia.

Provenance

Mrs. Esther Ehrman-Lazard, San Francisco (acquired circa 1929)
Thence by descent to the present owner

Exhibited

San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Contemporary Art: Paintings, Watercolors and Sculptures owned in the San Francisco Bay Region, Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, 1940, no. 127
San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Modern Masterpieces: Fifteenth Anniversary Exhibition, 1950, n.n.

Literature

William A. Camfield, Francis Picabia : His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, no. 332, illustrated
Maria-Lluïsa Borràs, Picabia, London, 1985, no. 783, illustrated p. 374

Catalogue Note

"These transparencies with their corner of oubliettes permit me to express for myself the resemblance of my interior desires... I want a painting where all my instincts may have a free course."
Francis Picabia's preface to Galerie Leonce Rosenberg, Exposition Francis Picabia, Paris, 1930

ARTEMIS

Painted in 1929, Artemis is a remarkable example of the iconic Transparences series painted by Picabia at the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s. Inspired by the process of superposing different motifs and images, Picabia made his first Transparences in 1927 and 1928 which were exhibited in September 1928 in the Galerie Théophile Briant in Paris. Following the eccentric works of the Dada years, this new cycle inaugurated a new pictorial thought, more structured, more poetic, drawing its sources and influences from the aesthetic canons of the Italian Renaissance and Greco-Roman antiquity but also in the new optical techniques of cinema (in particular that of stereoscopic vision).

Intellectually complex works, Transparences met with immediate success as much with collectors as with the Surrealist circle which appreciated the different levels of interpretation and the omnipresence of dream and the unconscious in these compositions. Marcel Duchamp praised this new cycle in Picabia's work: "He dedicates himself to the study of transparency in painting. Through the juxtaposition of transparent and coloured forms, the canvas, so to speak, expresses the sensation of a third dimension without the aid of perspective. A prolific artist, Picabia belongs to the type of painter that possesses the perfect tool: a tireless imagination."

The present painting, in the manner of the Transparences painted at the same period, finds its thematic source in Greco-Roman mythology. The main subject of the work, the goddess Artemis, is not however depicted in evident fashion but emerges sketchily from a tangle of vegetation and birds, whilst in the foreground an imposing profile portrait stands out which could be Apollo, the goddess's brother or, more probably, the painters' self-portrait bearing his features and hairstyle. Another source which inspired the painter is in Italian art of the 17th Century: the lower part of the composition, with the naked man laid down on the foreground, is directly inspired from a painting by Bartolomeo Schedoni (1578-1615), San Sebastiano curato da Irene (1615, Naples, Museo e Gallerie di Capodimonte – Fig. 1 and 2). 

Artemis is emblematic of the works in the second Transparences series, characterized by a growing complexity and compositions that are denser than those of the very first works of 1927. Here, the figures are superposed, the faces mingled. The spectator has to gradually enter  into the tangle of motifs in order to understand the different levels of meaning and conscience.

As a particularly accomplished work, Artemis throws us into the heart of Francis Picabia's artistic and intellectual approach. The deciphering of this complex painting of multiple meanings, allows for a better understanding of Léonce Rosenberg's (the artist's principal dealer) description at the time when it was painted: "the transparencies are the association between the visible and the invisible. It is this notion of time, added to that of space, which constitutes precisely the doctrine of your art. Beyond instantaneity, towards infinity, such is your ideal."

Modernités : de Rodin à Soulages

|
Paris