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FRANCIS PICABIA (1879-1953)

 
FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. . FRANCIS PICABIA - Lunis - oil on canvas - 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. .
Lunisc. 192925 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. .(97 x 84 cm) oil on canvas
Provenance
Maurice Montet, Paris
Galerie Ch.. Le Chanjour, Nice (1979)
Private Collection, Switzerland (1980-2001)
Lucien Bilinelli, Brussels and Milan (2006)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 7th February 2006, lot 65
Private Collection, Russia (2006-2009)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 3rd February 2009, lot 22
Private Collection (2009-2015)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, Surrealist Art Evening Sale, 3rd February 2015, lot 75
Private Collection, California
Literature
William A. Camfield, Beverley Calté, Candace Clements, Arnaul...More...d Pierre. Francis Picabia Catalogue Raisonné. Volume III (1927-1939)
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“Art must be unaesthetic in the extreme, useless and impossible to justify.” – Francis Picabia

History

Francis Picabia’s Lunis from 1929-1930 belongs to an exploration by the artist of layered figurative compositions. Called Transparences for their overlapping images akin to photographic transparencies, the works in this series mimic the delicate translucent qualities of a butterfly’s wings. Indeed, Picabia likely looked to those elegant insects for inspiration, studying an encyclopedia of butterfly species (Atlas de poche des papillons de France, Suisse et Belgique by Paul Girod) that was in his personal library. In Lunis, dotted wings swirl and mingle with other compositional elements, blending and transforming with other layers and lines – merging with the outline of a woman’s face, a bird’s contour, or the less-defined linear elements that draw the viewers eyes around the painting in graceful arcs.

More
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    Francis Picabia in his studio, c. 1912
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    Francis Picabia, “Transparence – Tête et Cheval” (c. 1930), Museum of Modern Art, New York
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    Francis Picabia, “Self Portrait” (c. 1929), The Art Institute of Chicago
“A free spirit takes liberties even with liberty itself.” – Francis Picabia

MARKET INSIGHTS

  • PICABIA_AMR_Graph
  • The graph by Art Market Research shows that since 1976, paintings by Picabia have increased at an 8% annual rate of return
  • The top 5 works by Francis Picabia sold at auction are from the 1920s, his most desirable period.
  • Four of the top five Picabia works sold at auction were sold within the last two years
  • Lunis (1929-1930) is one of the few Transparences privately held.
  • Recent record-setting sales for works by Claude Monet ($110.7 million in 2019) and Sandro Botticelli ($92.2 million in 2021) show increasing demand for the best examples from each art historical period.

Top Results at Auction

"Volucelle II" (c.1922), ripolin on canvas, 78 x 98 in.  Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 06 November 2013 for $8,790,000 USD.
“Volucelle II” (c.1922), ripolin on canvas, 78 x 98 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 06 November 2013 for $8,790,000 USD.
"Atrata" (c.1929), oil and pencil on paper, 59 x 37 ½ in., Sold at Sotheby’s London: 26 February, 2019 for $4,942,000 USD.
“Atrata” (c.1929), oil and pencil on paper, 59 x 37 ½ in., Sold at Sotheby’s London: 26 February, 2019 for $4,942,000 USD.
"Minos" (1929), oil, watercolor and pencil on panel, 59 ½ x 38 in.  Sold at Sotheby’s Paris, 21 October 2020 for $4,697,000.
“Minos” (1929), oil, watercolor and pencil on panel, 59 ½ x 38 in. Sold at Sotheby’s Paris, 21 October 2020 for $4,697,000.
"Lampe" (c.1923), watercolor, brush and India Ink and pencil on paper, 24 ¾ x 18 ½ in.  Sold at Christie’s London, 04 October 2016 for $4,640,000 USD.
“Lampe” (c.1923), watercolor, brush and India Ink and pencil on paper, 24 ¾ x 18 ½ in. Sold at Christie’s London, 04 October 2016 for $4,640,000 USD.
"Ligustri", (c. 1929), oil, gouache and brush and black ink over pencil on panel, 59 ½ x 38 in.  Sold at Christie’s London, 05 February 2020 for $4,540,000 USD.
“Ligustri”, (c. 1929), oil, gouache and brush and black ink over pencil on panel, 59 ½ x 38 in. Sold at Christie’s London, 05 February 2020 for $4,540,000 USD.

Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction

"Atrata" (c. 1939), oil and pencil on panel, 58 7/8 x 37 3/8 in. Sold at Sotheby’s, London: 26 February 2019 for $4,941,558 USD.
“Atrata” (c. 1939), oil and pencil on panel, 58 7/8 x 37 3/8 in. Sold at Sotheby’s, London: 26 February 2019 for $4,941,558 USD.
  • Same year, larger than Lunis, but a work on paper with less color
  • Similar figuration the artist was known for during this time, lots of detail and fractals similar to Lunis
  • Major recent result, selling for almost $5 million in 2019 – well above the high estimate
"Minos" (1929), oil, watercolor, and pencil on panel, 59½ x 38 in. Sold at Sotheby’s, Paris: 21 October 2020 for $4,696,937 USD.
“Minos” (1929), oil, watercolor, and pencil on panel, 59½ x 38 in. Sold at Sotheby’s, Paris: 21 October 2020 for $4,696,937 USD.
  • Interesting focus on mythology which is an important theme for the artist 
  • Major recent result, selling for almost $5 million in Oct 2020 (mid-pandemic) – well above the high estimate
  • Same year, larger than Lunis, but a work on paper with less color
"Ligustri" (c. 1929), oil, gouache, and brush and black ink over pencil on panel , 59 ¾ x 37 7/8 in. Sold at Christie’s, London: 5 February 2020 for $4,538,216 USD.
“Ligustri” (c. 1929), oil, gouache, and brush and black ink over pencil on panel , 59 ¾ x 37 7/8 in. Sold at Christie’s, London: 5 February 2020 for $4,538,216 USD.
  • Same year, 1929, but darker and on panel (not canvas like Lunis)
  • Similar composition to Lunis, has nice complexity
  • Strong result from 2020 selling for $4.5 million USD – well above the high estimate
"Melibée" (c.1931), oil on canvas, 77 x 51 1/8 in. Sold at Sotheby’s, Paris: 19 March 2019] for $4,452,678 USD.
“Melibée” (c.1931), oil on canvas, 77 x 51 1/8 in. Sold at Sotheby’s, Paris: 19 March 2019] for $4,452,678 USD.
  • Later painting (1931) than Lunis
  • Darker painting but has some color, less complex than Lunis
  • Strong result in European sale in 2019 – selling for well above the high estimate

Paintings in Museum Collections

"Transparence - Tête et Cheval" (c. 1930), ink, gouache, and watercolor on paper, 30 4/8 x 23 1/4. In., The Museum of Modern Art, New York
“Transparence – Tête et Cheval” (c. 1930), ink, gouache, and watercolor on paper, 30 4/8 x 23 1/4. In., The Museum of Modern Art, New York
"Self Portrait" (c. 1929), Gouache, pen and black ink, and black crayon on cream wove paper, 24 ¾  x 19 in., The Art Institute of Chicago
“Self Portrait” (c. 1929), Gouache, pen and black ink, and black crayon on cream wove paper, 24 ¾ x 19 in., The Art Institute of Chicago
"Sotileza" (c.1928), gouache on paper, 30 x 22 in., National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
“Sotileza” (c.1928), gouache on paper, 30 x 22 in., National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
"Le Beau Charcutier" (c.1929–35), oil paint, 4 plastic combs and bone comb on canvas, 36 1/2 x 29 in., The Tate, London
“Le Beau Charcutier” (c.1929–35), oil paint, 4 plastic combs and bone comb on canvas, 36 1/2 x 29 in., The Tate, London
“Knowledge is ancient error reflecting on its youth.” – Francis Picabia

Image Gallery

Additional Resources

Read: Francis Picabia Catalog Raisonne, Vol. III (1928-1939)
Watch: How to see Francis Picabia – with Lisa Yuskavage and MoMA curator Anne Umland
Read: Francis Picabia’s Elusive Transparencies

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