Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale


Francis Picabia
1879 - 1953
signed Picabia (lower left)
oil on canvas
115 by 145.7cm.
45 1/4 by 57 3/8 in.
Painted circa 1905.
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Olga Picabia (acquired from the artist)

Private Collection, Paris & USA (acquired in 1930)

Joseph & Lieve Guttmann, USA (acquired in 1990)

Private Collection, Lucerne (acquired in 1992)

Private Collection, Geneva (acquired in 1997)

Private Collection, Dallas (acquired in 2007)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


William A. Camfield, Beverley Calté, Candace Clements & Arnauld Pierre, Francis Picabia, Catalogue raisonné, New Haven & London, 2014, vol. I, no. 203, illustrated in colour p. 228

Catalogue Note

A view of the verdant riverside that runs through the small town of Moret-sur-Loing, the present work exemplifies Picabia’s successes as a painter in the Impressionist and post-Impressionist style. Following in the footsteps of an older generation of artists, he began to spend long periods in Moret and would paint numerous scenes inspired by the surrounding countryside. In Le Loing à Moret Picabia turns to a stretch of riverbank that Alfred Sisley had painted in 1891 (see lot 25). Picabia first painted this view in 1902, returning to it as a subject on different occasions over the following years and producing both oils and drawings depicting the seductive sway of the Loing as it meanders down past the old church and distinctive medieval towers of the town.

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 characterised 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 (fig. 2). This marks the beginnning of a practice that would remain central to Picabia’s art throughout his career, and also calls into question his relationship to the work of artists such as Sisley, Monet and Pissarro.

Whilst 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 (fig. 1) to the more strident colouration of Neo-Impressionism reveals both a precocious talent and a mischievious disregard for artistic convention and tradition.

Of all the themes that run through Picabia’s remarkably varied œuvre, 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 catlaogue for the current 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 realise, 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’ (G. Hughes, ‘Francis Picabia, Once Removed’, in Francis Picabia (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich & The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016-17, pp. 30-31). 


Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale