Lot 3
  • 3

Francis Picabia

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Francis Picabia
  • Force Comique
  • Signed Picabia (lower center) and titled FORCE COMiqUE (upper right)
  • Watercolor, pencil and pen and ink on paper
  • 25 1/2 by 21 1/8 in.
  • 64.7 by 53.7 cm


Guillaume Apollinaire, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1914)

Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 8, 1926, lot 11

Mrs. John Nichols, Pittsfield, Massachusetts (acquired in 1926)

A gift from the above in 1965


Amsterdam, Kunstenaarsvereniging de Onafhankelijken, Geïllustreerde Catalogus voor de 3de Internationale Jury - Vrije Tentoonsteling, 1914, no. 412, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Modern Gallery, Picabia Exhibition, 1916, no. 13

New York, Modern Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Picabia, Braque, Dessaignes, Rivera, 1916, no. 12

Paris, Galerie Povolozky (Galerie La Cible), Francis Picabia, 1920, no. 50, illustrated in color in the deluxe edition of catalogue 

Limoges, Galerie Dalpayrat, Exposition Francis Picabia, 1921, no. 36

New York, Brooklyn Museum; New York, Anderson Galleries; Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery & Grange Park, Toronto Art Gallery, An International Exhibition of Modern Art Assembled by Société Anonyme, 1926-27, no. 51

Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais & Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Francis Picabia, 1976, no. 43, illustrated in the catalogue (dated 1913-14)

Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris-New York, 1977, no. 390, illustrated in the catalogue

Madrid, Salas Pablo Ruiz Picasso del Ministerio de Cultura & Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Caixa de Pensions, Francis Picabia, Exposición antoloón, 1985, no. 27, illustrated in color in the catalogue (dated 1913-14)

Lisbon, Centro Cultural de Belém, Francis Picabia antologia/anthology, 1997, no. 17, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Francis PicabiaSingulier idéal, 2003, n.n., illustrated in color in the catalogue (dated 1913-14)

Paris, Musée d'Orsay & Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, New York et l'Art Moderne: Alfred Stieglitz et son cercle 1905-1930, 2004, no. 108, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Guillaume Apollinaire, "Aquarelles de Picabia" in L'AtelierParis Journal, 1914, mentioned p. 3

The Little Review, London, 1922, illustrated pp. 32-33

William A. Camfield, Francis PicabiaHis ArtLife and Times, Princeton, New Jersey, 1979, no. 95, illustrated n.p. (dated circa 1914)

Katia Samaltanos, Apollinaire: Catalyst for PrimitivismPicabia, and Duchamp, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1984, mentioned p. 69

Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Picabia, New York, 1985, no. 265, illustrated in color p. 150 (dated 1913)

Michel Sanouillet, Picabia, Paris, 1993, mentioned p. 579

William A. Camfield, Beverly Calté, Candace Clements, Arnaud Pierre & Pierre Calté, Francis Picabia Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven & London, 2014, vol. II, no. 480, illustrated in color p. 97 & pp. 372-73 

Catalogue Note

Force Comique is one of four watercolors that Picabia created in the South of France in the Spring of 1914, and sent to an exhibition in Amsterdam which opened in May of that year. This group of works was executed following the artist’s return from New York the previous year; Picabia decided to enter four paintings in the now legendary Armory Show of 1913, hoping for a more open-minded reception in America than the one his work encountered in Paris at the time. The exhibition included a large number of works by Cubist, Expressionist, Fauve, Neo-Impressionist and Symbolist artists working in Europe. As the only French artist who could at the time afford to travel to New York, Picabia took on the role of spokesman for the European avant-garde, giving numerous interviews. Immediately after the Armory Show his works were exhibited in Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery ‘291’, where they were enthusiastically received. Picabia’s journey to America was filled with excitement and with a great cultural and intellectual stimulation that made a profound impact on the work he produced subsequently. In an interview given during his stay in New York he commented: “I am seeking a certain balance, through tones of color or shades, in order to express the sensations I receive from things in the manner of a leitmotiv in a musical symphony. Creative art is not interested in the imitation of objects” (quoted in World Magazine, 1913). This sentiment is beautifully realized in the present composition, which appears to pulsate with a sense of rhythm and movement.

Picabia’s wit also extended to the willfully obtuse titles he gave to his abstract works as emphasized by the title of the present work Force Comique or Comical Force. William A. Camfield writes: “In some instances, the titles themselves suggest jest or mockery, as in En badinant (in jest, playfully) and Embarras (trouble/problem/hindrance). In Chose admirable à voir, mockery exists in the disconnect between the title and image inasmuch as that ‘thing admirable to see’ is one of the most chaotic compositions in Picabia’s entire career… Apollinaire, however, did record at that time their mutual interest regarding the interface of art and words, of the visual and linguistic. Apollinaire was composing ‘calligramme’ poems in the form of visual images, and he made an intriguing reference to what he called Picabia’s ‘poèmes peints’” (W.A. Camfield et al.Op. cit., pp. 94 & 96). These comments demonstrate that in 1914 Picabia was already moving away from his purist abstract concerns of the previous two years, and towards a Dadaist sensibility that reveled in mockery and badinage.