Lot 49
  • 49

Francis Picabia

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Francis Picabia
  • Transparence (La Source)
  • signed Francis Picabia (lower right)
  • watercolour, gouache, crayon and brush and ink and wash on paper laid down on card


Sale: Galerie Alexandre III, Cannes, Atelier Francis Picabia, 18th August 1934, lot 42 (titled La Source)

Private Collection, France

Galerie Michel Vidal, Paris (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004

Catalogue Note

This monumental work on paper belongs to a series known as Transparences, that Picabia executed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, deriving their name from multiple layers of overlapping imagery. The present composition is dominated by the female nude in the centre, overlapping with two heads, one seen en face and the other in profile, and the bird to its left. The leaves scattered around the sheet are 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 frescos and Renaissance painting. Rich in cultural references, they combine their varied images into compositions of great beauty and harmony. Following his experimentation with Dadaism 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 these compositions remain deliberately obscure and ambiguous, and their power lies in their evocative beauty and elegance of execution.