This preoccupation with the same stretch of river is telling as to Picabia’s technique and approach to painting. Unlike Monet or Sisley, whose interest in the effects of light and atmosphere drew them to return to the same site or motif in different seasons or times of day, Picabia’s depictions of this particular scene are all characterized by the blue skies of a summer’s day. Picabia was less interested in capturing the changing moods of his chosen landscape than in the fact of making an "Impressionist" painting. It was noted by contemporaries, including Pissarro’s sons with whom Picabia spent time in Moret, that rather than painting en plein air in the traditional Impressionist fashion, Picabia often conjured his visions of rural France from photographs or postcards. This marks the beginning of a practice of appropriation that would remain central to Picabia’s art throughout his career, and also calls into question the relationship of his art to the work of artists such as Sisley, Monet and Pissarro.
While his admiration for these artists was genuine—he petitioned to have a monument to Sisley erected in Moret—his own approach to this style of painting treads a delicate line between the aspirational emulation of a young artist and a facility of technique that borders ineluctably and enticingly on pastiche. The impressive scale of the present work alone marks it out from the Impressionist canvases of the previous century. The ease with which Picabia shifts from the pastel tones and soft handling reminiscent of a Monet or a Sisley to the more strident coloration of Neo-Impressionism reveals both a precocious talent and a mischievous disregard for artistic convention and tradition.
Of all the themes that run through Picabia’s remarkably varied oeuvre, questions of originality and creativity remain foremost, and this is as true of his Impressionist paintings as it is of the Dada works. In 1923 Picabia began to tell a story about a period in his life when, as a young man at home and in need of money to finance a growing stamp collection, he had set about systematically selling the paintings in his father’s collection, replacing them with copies of his own making. So accomplished were the copies, that the deceit only came to light when he confessed. This story was intended to make a point about his approach to creating art and—although it cannot be entirely verified—it is at least corroborated by the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist canvases that dominated his output for nearly a decade.
In discussing this aspect of the artist’s early work in the catalogue for the recent Picabia retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Gordon Hughes argues that these paintings can be seen as a prelude to the challenging modernity of his later work: "rather than tread the path we typically like to think of as necessary to the development of true artistic maturity—cultivating early flashes of potential to find, through hard work and perseverance, one’s true artistic voice—Picabia began to consider his artistic formation in quite different terms. Fraudulence, he came to realize, or at least its always-present potential, is not something passed through en route to heard-earned authenticity but part and parcel of the very structure of modernism itself" (Gordon Hughes, "Francis Picabia, Once Removed" in Francis Picabia (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich & Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016-17, pp. 30-31).
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale