Lot 27
  • 27

Francis Picabia

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Francis Picabia
  • Sous les oliviers (Coquetterie)
  • Signed Francis Picabia (lower right)
  • Oil and Ripolin on board
  • 29 3/8 by 41 1/8 in.
  • 74.5 by 104.5 cm


(probably) Mariette Mills, Paris & New Jersey (acquired by circa 1949)

Mme M Paimparay, Paris (acquired by circa 1951-52)

Michel Périnet, Paris (acquired in 1973)

Sale: Palais d'Orsay, Paris, June 9, 1977, lot 38

Galerie de Siene, Paris (acquired at the above sale)

(probably) Galerie Rudolf Springer, Berlin (acquired by circa 1980)

Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg

Charles & Doris Saatchi, London (acquired in 1983)

Private Collection, London (acquired from the above in the 1980s and sold: Sotheby's, London, June 25, 2008, lot 40)

Acquired at the above sale


Paris, Galerie René Drouin, 491, 50 ans de plaisirs, 1949, no. 33 (titled Coquetterie and dated 1922) 

(probably) Paris, Galerie Artiste et Artisan, Quelques oeuvres de Picabia (époque Dada 1915-1925), 1951, n.n. 

Paris, Galerie Furstenberg, Exposition Picabia, 1956, no. 34 (titled Coquetterie)

Paris, Galerie Mona Lisa, Picabia vu en transparence, 1961, no. 26, illustrated in the catalogue (dated 1922) 

Düsseldorf, Städtischen Kunsthalle & Zurich, Kunsthaus, Francis Picabia, 1983-84, no. 51, illustrated in color in the catalogue (titled Coquetterie and dated 1922)

Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Francis Picabia, 1984, no. 48


"Francis Picabia in His Latest Moods" in This Quarter, vol. 1, no. 3, Monte Carlo, Spring 1927, illustrated n.p.

Michel Perrin, ed., Fixe: Francis Picabia. Dau al set (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Dalmau, Barcelona, 1952, illustrated n.p.

Olga Mohler Picabia & Maurizio Fagiolo, Francis Picabia, Turin, 1975, illustrated p. 34

Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Picabia, London, 1985, no. 442, illustrated in color p. 320 & on the cover (titled Under the Olive Trees and dated 1926)

William A. Camfield, Beverly Calté, Candace Clements, Arnaud Pierre & Pierre Calté, Francis Picabia, Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven & London, 2016, vol. II, no. 916, illustrated p. 404

Catalogue Note

Sous les oliviers (Coquetterie) belongs to one of the most celebrated bodies of work in Picabia's oeuvre, the so-called "monster" paintings dating from the mid-1920s. Having broken off from the official Surrealist movement Picabia left Paris in 1925 and moved to the Midi, where he built the Château de Mai. Enjoying the splendor offered by this new environment in the South of France, his creativity received a new impetus, and the artist spent his days painting in the vast studio space of the Château. This renewed interest in the medium of painting resulted in works executed in Ripolin paint, with subjects which were adapted from the imagery of mass-produced sentimental postcards of the period. Picabia’s embracing figures repeat poses in those popular postcards but parody them with their multiple eyes, elongated noses, and aggressive patterns and colors. The present work is one of the most remarkable of Picabia's "monsters," where the highly stylized figures are rendered in brilliant, strong colors applied with a great sense of energy and dynamism. The artist himself attached great importance to this group of works, selecting sixteen "monster" paintings, including the present work, for publication in the Spring 1927 edition of the review This Quarter. After his experimentation with various media and techniques that characterized his Dada years, in the mid-1920s Picabia rejoiced in the act of painting, using simplified signs, such as circles, crosses and zig-zag lines that can be seen as a legacy of his Dada style. The abstract, geometric forms and lines painted in strong, bright colors are used to signify various elements of the composition, a style that came to be known as signic automatism. Maria Lluïsa Borràs wrote about this group of works that includes Sous les oliviers (Coquetterie): "This protracted series of couples transformed into notable examples of signic automatism may have had its origin in the film and play reviews that filled so many pages of Comoedia, which were nearly always illustrated by photographs of the two leading characters in the work under review – almost invariably represented with their heads very close together" (M. L. Borràs, Op. cit., p. 290). 

Although not officially a member of André Breton's Surrealist group, Picabia continued to work in the field of automatism, central to their ideology. Borràs further commented about the unique pictorial language Picabia developed during this period: "... the eye is simply replaced by the sign of an eye. In these works, now known as his 'monsters,' Picabia created a new language that enhanced sign and rhythm over and above any other pictorial element, such as line, mass or color, freeing the hand from all control by reason in such a way that it seemed to be receiving its impulse from the subconscious. He transformed the traditional portrait of a lady with her hand on her breast into the basis of a completely new language, as far removed from Renaissance perspective as it was from Cubist dogmatism...The number of works extant in this style permit us to assert that on Picabia's part this was neither a passing whim nor a chance experiment; it was, on the contrary, the result of a firm intention to explore this new mode and new language to its ultimate consequences" (ibid., p. 289).

Picabia painted Sous les oliviers (Coquetterie) using Ripolin, an industrial enamel paint originally developed in the 1890s. Immensely popular in the early 20th century for commericial use, certain artists including Picabia, Picasso, Moholy-Nagy, Magritte and Kandinsky began to experiment with and incorporate Ripolin into their canvases. “Ripolin paints were high-grade enamels that enjoyed enormous success in commercial applications as well as with the avant-garde artists of the time. These paints were so renowned that the term ‘Ripolin’ soon became synonymous with modernity, sophisticated technology, excellent quality and high performance” (M. Kokorri, “Some Notes on Enamel Paints and Modernism” in J. H. Townsend, A. King & A. Wright, eds., Picasso, Picabia, Ernst, New Perspectives, London, 2018, p. 5). Writing about Picabia's use of Ripolin in the mid-1920, Marcel Duchamp commented: “His concern for invention leads him to use Ripolin instead of sanctified tube paints, which, in his view, take on too rapidly the patina of posterity. He loved the new, and his canvases of 1923, 1924, 1925, have this aspect of fresh painting, which keeps the intensity of the first moment” (quoted in ibid., p. 6). These new paints, created for the ever-more productive industrial uses of the early twentieth century, attracted the most experimental and boundary breaking artists of the time; it is no surprise that Picabia would be drawn to both the connotations and visual effects of this new medium.