Lot 385
  • 385


250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Francis Picabia
  • Paysage
  • Signed Picabia and dated 1909 (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 25 3/4 by 32 in.
  • 65.4 by 81.2 cm
  • Painted in 1909.


Simone Collinet (Galerie Furstenberg), Paris (acquired by 1964)
Sale: Hôtel des ventes, Enghien, December 11, 1977, lot 118
Sale: Drouot Richelieu, Paris, April 11, 1998, lot 238
Private Collection, France (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 17, 1998, lot 379)
Acquired at the above sale


London, Matthiesen Gallery, Francis Picabia 1879-1953, 1959, no. 10 (possibly)
Paris, Galerie Mona Lisa, Picabia vu en transparence, 1961, no. 9 (possibly)
Paris, Galerie Furstenberg, Francis Picabia 1879-1953, 1964, no. 3 (possibly)
Leverkuse, Städtisches Museum & traveling, Picabia, 1967, no. 5 (possibly)


Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Picabia, Paris, 1985, no. 198, illustrated in color pp. 116-17
William A. Camfield, Beverly Calté, Candace Clements, Arnaud Pierre & Pierre Calté, Francis Picabia Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, New Haven & London, 2014, no. 399, illustrated in color p. 307


The canvas has been lined. There is some stable hairline craquelure in the thickest white pigments, most notable in the upper right corner and in the yellow pigments in the lower left. The impasto is well-preserved. Under UV light, some original pigments fluoresce. There are scattered minor strokes of inpaintings throughout the sky, including a 3 inch area in the upper left quadrant and a horizontal area of inpainting extending from the top of the dark blue tree at right to the center of the composition. There are a few very minor strokes along the extreme upper edge and in the pink hill at foreground. The work is in overall very good condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Picabia’s biographer William A. Camfield wrote that the crisis in the artist’s career “over the winter of 1908-09 marked the beginning of a four-year search for self-expression in the visual vocabulary of avant-garde art” (William A. Camfield, Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, p. 17). Initially a painter in the image of Sisley and Pissarro, Picabia shirked the profitable trajectory of his nascent Impressionist career, exploring such aesthetics as those of the Fauves, Expressionists, Nabis and the Section d’Or. Picabia would ultimately become renowned for his defiance of categorization and the prescriptions of specific artistic movements, but it was this groundbreaking shift toward the new that was captured in the canvases of 1909.

Picabia’s marriage to Gabrielle Buffet in January 1909 was critical to these advances. A music student under composer Vincent d’Indy and later Ferruccio Busoni, Gabrielle facilitated Picabia’s newfound conception of art as a representation of feeling and emotion over Impressionist concerns for atmospheric light and color. Asked by his new wife what he would paint if not Impressionist landscapes, Picabia replied “forms and colors liberated from their sensory attributes—painting situated in pure invention that re-creates the world of forms following its own desire and imagination” (quoted in William A. Camfield, Beverley Calté, Candance Clements, Arnauld Pierre & Pierre Calté, op. cit., p. 54). This pursuit of pure color and form was sought by other radical artists of the time, such as Kandinsky, who searched for a new spiritual reality at Murnau (see fig. 1). Returning to the locations of his bucolic earlier works, Picabia repainted these sites through the lens of a vast stylistic evolution. Works such as the simply titled Paysage were his first to draw from Neo-Impressionism and Fauve output. As stated by William Camfield: “Picabia no longer conceived art as the representation of the appearance of nature but as the equivalent of one’s emotional experience of nature—an equivalent realized by orchestrating the autonomous, expressive properties of form and color… For Picabia, however, this concept of correspondence was crucial. For the remainder of his life, his work was nourished by one or more of the liberating characteristics of that aesthetic—its celebration of individualism, its compatibility with the notion that spontaneous expression is a more effective, 'truthful' means of rendering one’s sensations, and, finally, its concept of autonomous and associative values for color and form which was open to the development of abstract art” (ibid., pp. 12-13).

No longer concerned with the optical representation of atmospheric effects, Picabia was free to explore even more avant-garde forms of abstraction. While his technique and artistic style changed drastically, it would be Picabia’s beloved genre of landscape painting that would propel him into the world of abstraction. In Paysage, Picabia paints the French countryside as geometric forms, building a landscape from a repertoire of green, red and navy shapes. These simplified, solid forms are reminiscent of the Post-Impressionist Nabis, illustrating how flattened planes of color can be assembled to create a more intense understanding of landscape, particularly when relieved from the constraints of direct representation.