Picabia Alert

Picabia Alert #8: A Blazing Sun Visits Madrid

Francis Picabia, El sol en la pintura, 1945, oil on cardboard, 45 x 37 cm.

Francis Picabia, El sol en la pintura, 1945, oil on cardboard, 17¾ x 14½ inches.


“Picabia Alert” takes note of shows that feature work by the wily French artist Francis Picabia (1879–1953), aiming to sate Picabia appetites until the Picabia retrospective arrives at the Kunsthaus Zurich and New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2016.

Today’s Picabia Alert takes us to Madrid’s Reina Sofía, which is presenting works from the collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel (currently closed for renovations) in a show called “Fuego blanco”—“White Fire.” And yes, the Picabia it features is pretty damn hot. Titled The Sun in the Painting, it dates from 1945—eight years before his death. At the time, he was shifting from cinematic portraits, frequently of rather attractive women (which he regularly cribbed from movie posters), to hermetic abstractions in a late-Surrealist mode. This one looks like it has traces of Calder, Miró, and Kandinsky, all diced up and thrown into an ultra-hot stew with a gargantuan flame at its center. It also has a great gradient-style painted border, which slides from red-orange to blue-purple as it outlines the painting. It will be on view at the museum through September 14.

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