The monumental Sky above Clouds IV, culmination of a series of clouds Georgia O’Keeffe was inspired to create after having travelled in an airplane for the very first time – in her seventies; a sleek, very art deco, very 007 bar on skis; a multilayered image of woman, Francis Picabia’s Madame X, it was then a new acquisition; the surreal, perfectly circular suns of Max Ernst and René Magritte; the meandering red line outlining anxiety and sadness looking itself in the mirror; a method Paul Klee called “taking a line for a walk”.
|1|- Sky above Clouds IV, 1965, oil on canvas – by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986)
|2|- ”Bar on Skis” Liquor Cabinet, about 1930 – by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann
|3|- Painting of Madame X, 1927/30, oil on canvas – by Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
|4|- Forest and Sun, 1927, oil on canvas – by Max Ernst (1891-1976)
|5|- The Banquet, 1958, oil on canvas – by René Magritte (1898-1967)
|6|- In the Magic Mirror, 1934, oil on canvas, on board – by Paul Klee (1879-1940)
From the accompanying tag: ”In 1926, the review ‘This Quarter’ reproduced thirteen of Picabia’s ‘Monster’ paintings, including this one, which bore the title ‘Woman with Pink Gloves’. By the time of the painting’s first known exhibition in 1956 however, it had acquired the title ‘Man with Gloves’. The work is displayed here with both titles restored. Although neither necessarily originated with Picabia, both speak to the androgynous character of his wasp-waisted, white-suited figure. With its green face, single oversized eye, and pustule-pink hands presumably clad in driving gloves, it is one of Picabia’s quintessential Côte d’Azur Monsters. The Surrealist André Breton was one of its early owners.”
From the accompanying tag: ”This work began as a portrait of Picabia painted by the German artist Bruno Eggert in 1934. Eggert gave it to Picabia, who then added his own touches: a pair of dark-tinted glasses on his nose, a face in the lover left corner, a transparent female body across the picture, the edge of a stretcher in the upper right corner. He also signed and dated the work. Here, Picabia adopted another artist’s work as the support for his own, with over-painting used to assert rather than deny.”
Part 5 concludes our round of Francis Picabia’s retrospective at MoMA.
”You are all indicted, stand up! It is impossible to talk to you unless you are standing up. Stand up as you would for the Marseillaise or God Save the King.
Stand up, as if the Flag were before you. Or as if you were in the presence of Dada, which signifies Life, and which accuses you of loving everything out of snobbery if only it is expensive enough.
One dies a hero’s death or an idiot’s death – which comes to the same thing. The only word that has more than a day-to-day value is the word Death. You love death – the death of others.
Kill them! Let them die! Only money does not die; it only goes away for a little while.
That is God! That is someone to respect: someone you can take seriously! Money is the prie-Dieu of entire families. Money for ever! Long live money! The man who has money is a man of honour.
Honour can be bought and sold like the arse. The arse, the arse, represents life like potato-chips, and all you who are serious-minded will smell worse than cow’s shit.
Dada alone does not smell: it is nothing, nothing, nothing. It is like your hopes: nothing like your paradise: nothing like your idols: nothing like your heroes: nothing like your artists: nothing like your religions: nothing.
Hiss, shout, kick my teeth in, so what? I shall still tell you that you are half-wits. In three months my friends and I will be selling you our pictures for a few francs.”
Manifeste Cannibale Dada
by Francis Picabia
27th March 1920
The work of Francis Picabia will remain our theme this week, as we follow the artist’s style shifts through the galleries of MoMA.
Picabia began this painting as a joke, to entertain himself and his friends at a time when he was suffering from an eye infection and his doctor prescribed something called sodium cacodylate. How effective it was we may never know, considering its toxicity which can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes! – not to mention its garlic-like smell.
Perhaps to ease his discomfort during what must have been a very irritating period, the artist painted an eye on a canvas and asked friends who visited him to leave their mark around it.
The result is a unique collage of signatures, pictures and dedications but, more significantly, a record of Picabia’s circle of friends:
Marthe Chenal wrote: Ecrire quelque chose, c’est bien !! Se taire, c’est mieux !! ~ Write something, it’s good !! To be silent is better!!
Jean Crotti : MON OEIL EN DEUIL de verre vous regarde – which, in free translation, could mean: MY MOURNING glass EYE is watching you.
Raymond Dorgelès : Non je n’en reste pas baba et je jure chez Picabia que ne n’aime pas Dada ~ No I do not remain baba and I swear at Picabia’s that does not like Dada.
Isadora Duncan : Isadora aime FRANCIS de tout son âme ~ Isadora loves Francis with all her soul.
Darius Milhaud : Je m’appelle DADA depuis 1892 ~ My name is DADA since 1892.
Clément Pansaers : Vive agaga Pansaers. Picabia te souviens-tu de Pharamousse ? – Live agaga Pansaers. Picabia do you remember Pharamousse?
Francis Poulenc : J’aime la salade ~ I love salad.
Hugo François : Je n’ai rien fait et je signe ~ I didn’t do anything and I sign.
Over 50 signatures complete the picture including those of his wife, Gabrièle Buffet, his close friends Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp – the latter signing as his alter ego, Rrose Sélavy (Éros c’est la vie) – and it is here Rrose received a second R for the first time; Tristan Tzara, Ezra Pound; Suzanne Duchamp (Marcel’s sister) wrote: Quand on me prend au dépourvu MOI = Je suis bête – When I’m caught off guard ME = I’m stupid.
It goes on and on, giving shape to truly collective creation.
L’Oeil Cacodylate (The Cacodylic Eye) Oil on canvas, and a collage of photographs, postcards and cut papers 1921
The work of Francis Picabia will remain our theme for next few days, as we follow the artist’s style shifts through the galleries of MoMA.
Rediscovering the French avant-garde artist whose body of work is so extensive, undergoing so many style changes, the average spectator would have a hard time in identifying the source had there not been for his signature or the accompanying tags.
No style or label could hold Picabia for long: skillfully shifting from Impressionism to Pointillism to Cubism and Dadaism, briefly touching upon Surrealism before succeeding to rid himself of labels and become the intriguing artist we know today.
With all this versatility throughout his entire career curating a retrospective for Picabia is no mean feat. But then, MoMA is no mean institution either: for their exhibition that ran from November 2016 through March 2017 – the first of its kind in the United States – no less than 200 works of art were brought under one roof: paintings, periodicals and printed matter, illustrated letters and a film. Aptly named ”Our heads are round so our thoughts can change direction”, it was comprehensive, enlightening and entertaining, all at once.
[Note from the accompanying tag: Picabia associated ”Udnie” – a name of his own invention – with memories of watching the dancer Stacia Napierkowska, whose suggestive performances subsequently provoked her arrest, rehearse onboard during his transatlantic journey to New York in 1913. ”Udnie” is also an anagram of the last name of Jean d’Udine, whose theory of synesthesia (published in 1910) linked painting with music and dance through the concept of rhythm. In this painting, rhythm is intimated via a series of repeated, interpenetrating pistons and quasi-visceral orifices, fusing the mechanical with the biological.]
The film shown was ‘‘Entr’Acte”, René Clair’s Dadaist Masterpiece (1924), originally designed to be screened between two acts of Francis Picabia’s 1924 opera Relâche. You can read all about it – and watch it – on Open Culture (film is on YouTube).