Understanding Picabia's Mystic Vision of Enigmatic Beauty

26 February | London
Launch Slideshow

“I want a painting where all my instincts may have a free course,” the French Surrealist Francis Picabia once said. And this is precisely what he achieved with Atrata, circa 1929, a remarkable work in which multiple layers of overlapping images – faces, animals, fruit – come together to form a picture of singular beauty. It is an example of the artist’s Transparences, a series reflecting the “painterly renaissance” he had embarked upon in the 1920s after years of experimentation with Dada and abstract techniques. Transparences draws on sources ranging from antique sculpture and natural phenomena to Renaissance painting, and among the various elements of Atrata’s iconography are references to the Roman giant Atlas and the Italian painter Botticelli. Many other icons remain a mystery, making the work a visual enigma. This series propelled Picabia into the critical limelight, capturing the interest of leading dealer Léonce Rosenberg, who quickly bought three works from the series, commissioned the artist to paint panels in his home, and hosted his first retrospective in 1930. Held in the same private collection for four decades, this masterpiece is finally appearing at auction, where it presents a unique opportunity to acquire a piece of Picabia’s extraordinary puzzle.

Understanding Picabia's Mystic Vision of Enigmatic Beauty

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