The Monster, Francis Picabia


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The Monster is one of a series of abstract and semi-abstract paintings that Francis Picabia made in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Greatly underappreciated during his lifetime and only recently becoming recognised for their significance and quality, this late body of work was created as a somewhat sardonic conjunction to the post-war boom in abstract art that took place in the late 1940s in both Europe and the United States. 
With its clearly discernible mask-like face, Monstre is a work that is clearly not, in fact, abstract at all. But this is the case with almost all of Picabia’s so called ‘abstractions’ from this period. Almost all of these works derived in some part from figurative sources that were translated by Picabia into some degree of abstraction. In the case of Monstre, Picabia has taken one of his most frequent motifs of the late 1930s and 40s – the mask – and extended the rhythm of some of its forms into a playful pictorial abstraction (perhaps with sexual overtones) that in the end creates a painting that is neither figurative nor abstract, but hovers in some netherworld between the two. Original, playful and distinctly post-modernist in this respect, Picabia’s irreverent pictorial approach won him few friends in the immediate post-war era but can today be seen to anticipate the later approaches to painting of artists such as Sigmar Polke, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen and even to some extent Warhol himself. 
In his mask paintings of the late 1930s, Picabia had explored the possibilities, first determined in his Transparencies of the late 1920s and 30s, of multiple-layered imagery. In these mask pictures Picabia had merged the often strongly graphic image of a mask with that of a more naturalistic representation of the human face in order to create a new, ambiguous, but also startling, pictorial reality. Something of this same logic was subsequently applied to the abstractions he began to make after the end of the war.
These works, which once again glorified the same vitalist philosophy of living passionately without restriction and in accordance with principles advocated by Friedrich Nietzsche, that Picabia had celebrated in his youth, often carried titles based on aphorisms and essays found in Nietzsche’s book Die frohliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science). Full of the joy of invention, but irreverent in their playfulness, canvases like Monstre annoyed critics of the period because they appeared to mock abstraction and not to take it seriously at a time when it was being championed, in both Paris and New York, as the great new hope for art in a post-apocalyptic era. After an exhibition of Picabia’s new work, held at the Galerie des Deux Îles in Paris in 1948, Michel Seuphor observed that ‘There is perhaps no painter more contested today than Picabia’ (Seuphor quoted in Carole Boulbès, ‘Painting, Poetry and Impudent Correspondence’, in Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction, exh. cat, Kunsthaus, Zurich, 2016, p. 244). 
Part abstraction, part frightening visage, Picabia’s Monstre is an anomaly. It is a work that fits no category known to the period in which it was made, but in spite of this, is an image that powerfully asserts its own pictorial reality, its own vitality and apparent right to exist. That it is a painting that was owned by Andy Warhol is also appropriate in this respect, for Warhol, in the 1970s, would himself, attempt to enter this ambiguous pictorial realm between abstraction and figuration. In his paintings of shadows, Rorschach stains, Camouflage and Oxidation pictures for example, Warhol also both mocked and paid homage to the great abstract painters of the 1940s and 50s. 

Francis Picabia (22 January 1879 – 30 November 1953) was a French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist. After experimenting with Impressionism and Pointillism, Picabia became associated with Cubism. His highly abstract planar compositions were colourful and rich in contrasts. He was one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France. He was later briefly associated with Surrealism, but would soon turn his back on the art establishment.

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Fine art papers are printed without any additional white border Please let us know at the time of ordering if you would like a small additional white border.

Rolled canvas options have an additional white border of approximately 2.5 inches (7cm) on all 4 sides to aid stretching.

Ready to hang canvas panels are stretched on 1.5 inch deep solid pine frames from sustainable forestry sources. The image is mirrored on all 4 sides to give an aesthetically pleasing finish.

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This was a present for my wife and she loves it. The quality is very good. Thanks for your excellent service.

Fantastic packaging and a stunning print. Thank you!

Great quality and a good idea to include a 'free gift' mini-pic to show what the other finishes are like.

Really excellent print quality! I have just had my print framed and it looks great thank you

This arrived quickly and is great quality, thank you! :)

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I ordered the canvas panel as a gift for my sister and she was delighted the canvas is really good quality and perfectly stretched. The finish on the back was really profesionally done too

Amazing print well printed and a reasonable price

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