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|The Picabia Affair, Part III
by Alain Tarica
The response by the Picabia Committee (hereinafter PC) to my memorandum The Picabia Affair (hereinafter PA) contains many false and erroneous assertions, the majority of which will be clarified herein. I shall confine myself to the factual statements, and will not dwell on the others.
The Picabia Affair which I raised in my memorandum is, moreover, in no way an ad hominem affair. The works affected by the "de-attributions" of the Picabia Committee, to wit, the works in the JMT series, are not my exclusive property; let us mention, by way of preamble, that out of 12 works in this series, one belongs to the National Museum of Modern Art, Georges Pompidou Centre, and four belong to other private collectors. To reduce the present controversy to a personal affair involving merely financial stakes is inaccurate.
Since the PC abided by the same order of chapters and sub-chapters in its reply as the order adopted in my PA memorandum, I shall continue to abide by this established order; I shall also re-use the same titles and sub-titles as those in the PC's reply. All the quotations in my reply, without other source references, hail from the text of the PC's document titled "In response to Mr. Tarica."
The PC declares that it "would not have had direct knowledge of that text if one of the recipients of this pamphlet had not suggested to its author that he would be at fault by not sending it to those personally (and grossly) targeted." This statement is inaccurate: Right off the bat, I addressed a copy of my memorandum at the very beginning of September to each of the three art historian members of the PC, Mr. Camfield (in English), Mrs. Borras, and Mr. Pierre, to their respective private addresses.
The PC asks that I guarantee "the same distribution for our response as for his own account -- and with the same rapidity and efficiency." I am in complete agreement on this point and, to this effect, asked the PC by letter dated 27 September 2002, and by fax, to provide a faithful English translation of the PC's text.
Then, "secondly, the committee suggests that these two documents be submitted to a professional magazine." Here again, I am in complete agreement that this controversy be afforded the widest possible circulation, and that all the documents pertaining thereto should be published, in particular on the Internet.
I "So-called fakes declared authentic"
a) "The case of Paysage (1909, collection of Mr. Calté)"
The PC's text reads: "Contrary to what Mr. Tarica suggests, this work (rep. no. 1, p. 27) was not discovered by its present owner." This statement is inaccurate: I have never asserted or suggested in my text (or elsewhere) that this work was discovered by Mr. Calté. I have stated that Mr. Calté was its owner, and proved as much through the fax from Mrs. Lougares, director of the Centro Cultural of Belem, where this work was exhibited in 1997 (rep. no. 2, p. 28).
This work, Paysage (colored crayon), is part of a series of similar works (Calté series) by the same hand. At a Picabia retrospective show in Madrid in 1985, where the Calté series featured, Mrs. Borras declared that all the works in this series were fakes, and this was done quite independently of myself.
Later, in Paris, at a FIAC fair, the Calté series was again on view, and for sale. That is where I first became acquainted with them, and declared them to be fakes without knowing anything about the opinion previously pronounced by Mrs. Borras in 1985. Today, Mrs. Borras has changed her mind and maintains that all the works in the Calté series are authentic. Dada and Picabia specialists will be pleased.
In any event, works regarded as fakes by a Picabia specialist (Mrs. Borras), and belonging to an art dealer (Mr. Calté), who is a close friend of the aforementioned specialist, should not feature in Picabia retrospectives, at least until that specialist (Mrs. Borras) changed her mind.
With regard to the stylistic analysis of the works in the Calté series, I asked the PC for a photocopy (at my expense) of this expert's report by letter and fax dated 27 September 2002.
b) "The case of Composition, 1913"
In the early 1970s, when I became familiar with this work (rep. no. 3, p. 29), I declared it to be a fake. Other connoisseurs were of the same opinion: Mr. Bailly-Cowell, for example, and Mr. Marcel Fleiss, have both admitted to having the same opinion during various conversations.
c) "Other obviously fake works"
In this paragraph, in order to establish their respective authenticity, the PC states that Colombe (rep. no. 4, p. 30) and Composition abstraite (rep. no. 5, p. 31) "come directly from Picabia's atelier which they had never left before this exhibition [Lisbon 1997]." But the PC provides no proof of this. Does this mean that these two works were in Picabia's studio before his death or that they cropped up with Olga Picabia after the artist's death?
Furthermore, they only appear for the first time in 1996, 40 years after the artist's death, in a Picabia exhibition at the Museo de Pobo Galego in Santiago de Compostela.
It is worth noting that Colombe looks much more like a fake Max Ernst than a Picabia.
As for the third work mentioned in this paragraph "c," Masque an transparence (1925-28), the PC states, to prove its authenticity, that it bears on the back of the drawing "an inscription most likely [sic!] in Picabia's handwriting: Francis Picabia, 1925," and another inscription "from another hand: A. Levesque." Do we know of other examples of Picabia, some signed and dated on the back, in order to make comparisons? If this inscription is not proven to be the artist's signature, then it is meaningless.
Likewise, the inscription "A. Levesque" on the back of the work proves nothing as to the provenance in so much as we do not know by whom and in what circumstances it was made. I would remind readers that "doubt is a part of the ethics of the PC."
d) "The case of Josias"
Various art dealers, myself included, pointed out to Sotheby's that this work, Josias, was a fake. The PC had it withdrawn, after one or two art dealers had drawn Sotheby's attention to this fake.
Then the PC writes that my assertion: "It has come to my notice that [Josias] was part of a series of four works, all fakes, but nevertheless certified authentic by the widow (Olga Picabia)" is "thoroughly incorrect and slanderous." I fail to see how this assertion is either incorrect or slanderous since immediately thereafter, the PC adds in its text that these works ("Josias" and other similar transparencies) "are fake transparencies [which] appeared in the Picabia retrospective in Madrid in 1985," inaugurated, what is more, in the presence of Olga Picabia and Mr. Calté. The PC adds that "Olga Picabia had them seized and destroyed with Police intervention at her own expense." The PC does not mention the date on which this seizure and destruction took place. As far as Josias is concerned, this seizure and destruction did not occur in 1985 either during or after the Picabia retrospective in Madrid, nor had it occurred up until 1996, the date when Josias cropped up again at Sotheby's.
e) "The case of Femme aux oiseaux"
In this case, it was I, and not the PC, who warned the director of the department concerned at Christie's of the presence of this fake (rep. no. 6, p. 32), explaining that it would be necessary to be insistent with Mr. Camfield in order to obtain his possible confirmation of my opinion, so as to avoid ending up in an indecisive situation just as with the case of Composition (1913) (chapter I, b).
Moreover, the PC cannot readily boast that it set the wheels in motion for this withdrawal, for when this work appeared on the market on three other occasions, namely:
-- in 1993, at the Galerie de l'Etoile, Paris, exhibition "Duchamp, Picabia, Man Ray";
-- at auction in Versailles on 9 April 1995 (reproduced in the catalogue);
-- at auction in Paris, on 10 October 1998, just after I had taken steps for its withdrawal from Christie's of London (and here again reproduced in the catalogue), and the PC never sought to have it withdrawn from any of these public events.
Are we to believe that no PC member was therefore aware of any of these three public appearances of this work, which, furthermore, had a certificate of authenticity issued by Olga Picabia, founder member of the PC?
Lastly, the PC states that I have made a slanderous insinuation, namely that Femme aux oiseaux belongs or belonged to a PC member. This statement is inexact: in my text (PA), I wrote: "We shall conclude this chapter on fakes declared authentic or accepted as genuine by the Picabia Committee at this juncture" and "incidentally, sold on the market, at times by members of the Committee," and this statement referred to the works of the Calté series (chapter I, a), for which I have shown that Mr. Calté was their owner, and some of which I know to have been sold.
II "The so-called remakes of Picabia"
a) "The case of Voiles (Sails) (1911)"
The PC writes that this work (rep. no. 7, p. 33) "was erroneously dated from the late 1930s by Olga Picabia." Not only by Olga Picabia. This work was presented some months before the sale to Olga Picabia so that she might examine it, and photographs of this work were provided by the auctioneer Maître Briest, including the black-and-white photograph on the back of which Olga Picabia wrote her certificate, dating the picture 1939-40.
In addition, the (Paris) auction catalogue reproduced this picture on a full page in color, and it was circulated more than a month before the auction. The PC had to be aware of the existence of this work with its 1939-40 dating. And yet the PC let it be sold as a 1939-40 work without having seen to the rectification called for with regard to the dating. I conclude hereby that the PC had not noticed the difference in pictorial execution between a 1911 painting and a 1939 painting, measuring 100 x 80 cm, in perfect condition, and since regarded by the PC as "a superb painting" and "a very beautiful work."
b) "The case of Centimètres (1924-25)"
May I remind you that the picture with collages Centimètres (rep. no. 8, p. 34) has been dated and reproduced by all Picabia specialists as being from 1924-25. The PC starts this paragraph by "once again, Mr. Tarica's comment about this collage from the mid-1920s starts with an error, intentional or otherwise." I do readily acknowledge that the fact of not having mentioned Enrico Baj in the provenance of this work between Olga Picabia and Arturo Schwarz represents an unintentional inaccuracy on my part, but one due to incomplete information.
On the other hand, the important point is not altered by this inaccuracy, namely that this work never left Picabia's studio until it was assigned by Olga. So its present state is exactly identical to when it was still in Picabia's studio. And so, if it dates from the 1940s, this can only be due to Picabia.
The PC then states: "All the stylistic, technical and material characteristics of the work place it without a doubt among the series of collages that Picabia made in the mid 1920s." This is incorrect. In all the collages made by Picabia above-referred to by the PC, the organization of the different glued materials is never slipshod, it is invariably highly structured, especially in its relationship to the painted part of the composition. This is not the case with Centimètres.
Then the PC adds: "The way the Ripolin has wrinkled in the lower part is also typical of the aging process of this material in other works from the same period." This statement in incorrect: these wrinkles are typical of the aging of Ripolin, and not of one of the artist's periods.
Further, had I not noticed that the painted surface was executed later on, in the 1940s, I would obviously not have had the idea of having examinations made of the different collages featuring on this painted surface, to see if, by chance, one of them did not date from the 1940s. In this respect, the PC writes: "He [Mr. Tarica] asserts that this type of match was not introduced in France until the postwar years, forgetting to specify which post-war period was involved." I did not specify it in my PA memorandum, because the letter from the SEITA specialist, Mr. Krier, reproduced in full (page 67, rep. no. 20 of the PA) mentions precisely that the war in question was the Second World War (rep. no. 9, p. 35).
In addition, knowing that these matches date from the 1940s, by examining the reproduction, it is clear to see that one of these matches is surrounded by cream-colored paint which encircles the outline of this match, so this cream-colored paint could only have been applied after the collage of the match (rep. no. 10, p. 36), which dates it in the 1940s.
c) "The case of the Portrait de Poincaré (1924-25) became the Beau Charcutíer (1934-35)"
I actually admit to a second error on my part, having written that Le Beau Charcutíer dates from the 1940s, whereas it is dated in several publications as produced in 1935.
But the dating rectification, from the 1940s (with no precise year) to 1935 change nothing with regard to the point put forward in my text, which is, incidentally, accepted by the PC in the corresponding paragraph of their text, namely that Picabia considerably altered both the painted composition and the glued materials, of a collage dated ca. 1925 (Portrait de Poincaré), to produce therefrom the work nowadays known as Le Beau Charcutíer.
I have used this example, known as the transformation of the Portrait de Poincaré into the Le Beau Charcutíer, to show that Centimètres in the previous paragraph was not the only Picabia work to have resulted from a transformation of an earlier collage by Picabia.
d) "Other so-called remakes"
It would seem that the PC text takes the Franglais word "remake" to mean what is known in the vocabulary peculiar to art history as a "replica" (French: réplique), otherwise put, the execution by the artist, or under his supervision, of a second version of an artwork.
My text is very clear on this point: I have used the Franglais noun "remake" to mean that a work has been remade without, a priori, prejudging the type of changes undergone by the work in question.
And in the examples which I quote in my PA text, I specify: "in other well-known instances, Picabia also remade, or either completely or partly transformed, other works: Danse de Saint-Guy, Clown à la Mandoline (previously Pépé of 1909), Jeannine, Lorenzo et Bunny, dated 1933, repainted over a work by Ribemont-Dessaignes from the Dada period, etc." The fact is that none of these examples corresponding to pictures remade by the artist is a replica.
III "The collages from the Jousseaume-Manoukian-Tarica (JMT) series"
The PC document accuses me of having covered up the denials made by Lucienne and Odette Rosenberg about the provenance of the JMT collages. This is incorrect. In my (PA) memorandum I have reproduced in full the letter written by Lucienne Rosenberg dated 29 November 1971 (rep. no. 29, page 79, PA), which is very clear about this denial. This is the sole document on this subject which Messrs. Petit, Schwarz and Collinet added in 1973 to the Pot Potin trial. This letter by Mrs. Rosenberg was written for Mr. Petit, well before the legal proceedings instituted by Mr. Périnet versus Messrs. Petit, Schwarz and Collinet had commenced (rep. no. 11, p. 37).
On the other hand, the PC text makes no mention of the second letter by Ms. Lucienne Rosenberg, which is nevertheless reproduced in full in my memorandum (rep. no. 30, page 80, PA), a letter which she wrote to Mr. Périnet (plaintiff in the Pot Potin trial who had brought the matter to court). This letter is dated 3 March 1973 (shortly prior to the trial), thus written as testimony at that trial, and written in the knowledge of Mr. Jousseaume's statement about the provenance (Rosenberg) of the JMT collages (rep. no. 12, p. 38).
This second letter of 3 March 1973, written to be submitted at the trial concerning the Pot Potin affair, thus contradicts not only her first letter of 29 November 1971 (reproduced in full in my PA memorandum), but also her other testimony to Mr. Petit, dated 15 December 1971, the testimony which, according to the PC text, I covered up and was not in fact acquainted with.
The PC text adds that "There is no trace of the JMT series, either in the profuse photographic archives of the Gallery (where every work in the collections was photographed), or in the remarkably well-kept record books."
The two assertions whereby the Léonce Rosenberg Gallery "photographed every work in its collections" and whose record book was "remarkably well-kept" are totally false (conversation with Mr. Derouet (1) of 26 September 2002). In the same conversation, Mr. Derouet told me that the record books were very well-kept up until 1928, as far as incoming works were concerned, but not for outgoing works, and that the books were not well-kept thereafter. He added that, for example, none of the exchanges that Léonce Rosenberg had with artists or with the Noailles -- exchanges which are incidentally well known -- is recorded in these books.
In addition, the "profuse photographic archives" of the Rosenberg Gallery come largely from a sale organized at the Pompidou Centre by Mr. Jousseaume, who got them from Lucienne Rosenberg, the selfsame Mr. Jousseaume who is at the origin of the much-disputed series of JMT collages. But it is totally incorrect to say that the Rosenberg Gallery "photographed every work in its collections." In fact, only about one third of the works recorded by the Rosenberg Gallery have been photographed (conversation with Mr. Derouet.)
b) "The case of Pot Potin"
According to the PC text, I have replaced the publication date (1925) of the Emile Baumann book L'Anneau d'or des grands mystiques by the approximation "in the late 1920s" to prove that Pot Potin (rep. no. 13, p. 39) "is a remake of the collages and therefore made later." According to the PC text, this operation was necessary to bring the execution dates of Pot Potin and Rocking Chair, dated 1928, closer together.
This is altogether incorrect. When I embarked upon my research into Pot Potin in 1972, I tried to identify the collages incorporating words. I had the idea that the textual collage L'Anneau d'or des grands mystiques was perhaps the title of a book and this is how I came to identify Emile Baumann's book L'Anneau d'or des grands mystiques. There are two editions of this book, the 1925 one which I first found at Grasset, which is the one used by the PC to accuse me of date-juggling; then another one in 1927, again published by Grasset. An inner page in a copy of the latter edition specified "achever d'imprimer le 28 mars 1927 par Arrault et Cie à Tours" [printed on 28 march 1927 by Arrault & Co in Tours] (rep. no. 14, p. 40). But even if this second 1927 edition did not exist, the fact that the textual collage L'Anneau d'or des grands mystiques dates from 1925 does not prevent this collage from being included in a book dating from ca. 1928. It is the very opposite that would be impossible.
Then the PC document states that all Picabia's collages date from 1923-26. but then this dating by the PC does not include the Beau Charcutíer, which dates from 1935. For the Beau Charcutíer is not a restoration conforming and faithful to the original, titled Le Portrait de Poincaré, ca. 1925. The Beau Charcutíer is a new painted composition in which some of the old 1925 collages no longer feature but which, on the other hand, incorporates new collages, and this work is designated by a new title: The Beau Charcutíer, quite different from the 1925 title, Le Portrait de Poincaré.
An exact dating of the Beau Charcutíer should at least indicat4e 1925-35. This, incidentally, is the dating given by the Tate Modern, which has this picture. So this is why I have written that Picabia's collages were all produced after 1924-25, i.e. at the earliest in the years 1924-25. If the PC so wishes, I am in complete agreement that "after 1924-25" be replaced by "after 1923-24," even though there is no trace of any Picabia collage existing in 1923.
c) "The connection to Rocking Chair (1928)"
The PC states that since the black-and-white photos of Rocking Chair (rep. no. 15, p. 44) existed before the appearance of the series of JMT collages, a forger might have drawn inspiration therefrom, which might explain the repetitions we find both in Rocking Chair and in Pot Potin, for example: the elastic bands incorporated at the top of the socks (to stop them slipping down to the ankles) and the lacework at the top of the stockings, affixed to a garter by a suspender clip of the type, incidentally, that is glued to Pot Potin (rep. no. 16, p. 42 and rep. no. 17, p. 43).
But these lace motifs (whose utilitarian function varies from Rocking Chair to Pot Potin) are incorporated in the part of the painted composition showing a woman's parted thighs and the lower part of the buttocks (2) (rep. no. 17, p. 43).
This whole part of Pot Potin was executed in a direct way, with no retouching, in the same gray color range as Rocking Chair (which cannot be seen in a black-and-white photograph), and in one go. What is involved here, then, is not a copy of a motif taken from a black-and-white photograph and readjusted to an already existing composition.
The PC text then considers that the similarities between the street lamps featuring in Rocking Chair (gouache on stiff board) and another collage in the JMT series, Idées noires (Indian ink on paper) (rep. no. 20, p. 46) are not as blatant as all that because:
-- the thickness of the lines is "heavier in the original." This is normal because Rocking Chair was made with gouache on board, whereas in Idées noires, the street lamp is drawn with Indian ink on paper (rep. no. 18, p. 44 and rep. no. 19, p. 45).
-- "their orientation" [of the lines?]: I have not understood what this refers to.
-- "the details on top of the lamp post [are different?]. In both instances, as the two reproductions demonstrate, there are the same ornamental motifs at the top of the street lamps constructed with the same series of brushstrokes. In addition, for a forger, the deciphering of the "ornamental details" situated at the center of the top of the street lamp, based on a black-and-white photograph of Rocking Chair, is made almost illegible, for in the black-and-white photograph of Rocking Chair, these ornamental details are intermingled with window openings also painted with the same black gouache as the street lamp (rep. no. 18, p. 44).
Readers may judge for themselves whether these two street lamps were or were not executed by the same "hand" (rep. no. 18, p. 41 and rep. no. 19, p. 45), even though they were produced with different media (black gouache/Indian ink), on different surfaces with very different absorption capacities (board/paper), and also with totally different dimensions. I would remind readers that with the gouache technique it is possible to delete mistakes, but this is not so with Indian ink on paper (Idées noires).
The PC text then explains that, given that in Rocking Chair white highlights representing "the light reflections of the curved wood" are, in Portrait de femme II (another collage in the JMT series, rep. no. 21, p. 47), simple lights set on a black line, the "manufacturer of Portrait de femme II misread the original significance of these white highlights, "which seems quite odd in the hypothesis that this man was Picabia himself." Picabia altered many of his works belonging to different periods, and he did so in different and more or less radical ways.
Lastly, the PC expresses surprise that "the copious appendix of reproductions of Mr. Tarica's essay does not include" the source of Rocking Chair, a postcard which is "nevertheless well-known and published." I did not include it because it only has to do with Rocking Chair, an unquestionable picture and one, incidentally, only physically known about since I found it with Mrs. O. in Brussels in 1981.
Equally as futilely, I could have mentioned a short Radiguet poem in relation to Rocking Chair, and hitherto unknown in publications on Picabia: "the swaying of the Rocking Chair invites us to the pleasures of the flesh."
d) "The testimony of Gabrielle Buffet concerning the Potin case"
I reproduce the testimony of Gabrielle Buffet and her daughter Gabriele Cécile Picabia (rep. no. 22, p. 48 and rep. no. 23, p. 49). The PC starts by saying that the disagreement between Potin and Picabia "had a certain notoriety," implying thereby that a forger could have been aware of it. In any event, that "notoriety" about a dispute occurring in 1930 did not come to the notice of Olga Picabia, or to certain Picabia specialists (Mr. Camfield, Mrs. Borras, Mr. Pierre, Mr. Calté), or to the Schwarz-Collinet-Petit threesome, who, in 1973, were still declaring that the explanation behind Pot Potin provided by Gabrielle Buffet in 1972 linking Pot Potin to that 1930 dispute was a lie.
The PC document subsequently states that "one of the artist's close friends or relatives could have mentioned the Potin anecdote to a potential forger," "a hypothesis that is nevertheless and sadly so frequent with fakes." This is another purely gratuitous assertion and I would ask the PC to provide a list of cases where this "sadly so frequent" hypothesis has been verified.
Regarding the testimony of Gabriele Cécile Picabia, the PC writes: "Even more astonishingly Mr. Tarica provides the testimony dated 12 July 1972 of a person who signs as Gabriele M. Picabia, apparently the daughter of Gabrielle [Buffet] and Picabia. Neither of the two daughters of Gabrielle and Picabia were named Gabriele, but Laure and Jeannine." The PC should know that Gabriele Cécile Picabia (1913-77) was indeed the daughter of Picabia and Gabrielle Buffet, her first names in the birth register (and the only ones appearing on her grave) being precisely Gabriele Cécile, and that Jeannine was her nickname used by her close friends. So Lorenzo Everling is indeed her half-brother.
Let us return to the documents that I managed to put my hands on in September 1998, which are extremely significant for they prove that the testimony of Gabrielle Buffet and Gabriele Cécile Picabia given during the Pot Potin trial (1973) was accurate on every point, and in particular with regard to the explanation of the contradictory wordplay involving the image of Pot Potin (a woman's backside or, in French, popotin, a familiar pre-war term) and the meaning of the textual collages Pot and Potin (literally, bad or tough luck, Mr. Potin).
This wordplay has to do with very precise circumstances in Picabia's life -- the purchase of the yacht the Henriqueta in 1930, giving rise to litigation between Picabia and Potin. This dispute was eventually settled by drawing lots, which Mr. Potin lost.
Messrs. Schwarz-Collinet-Petit, who had formed the whole cabal against Pot Potin and, as a result of various maneuvers including two petitions, obtained its withdrawal from the sale by auction conducted by the auctioneer Mr. Loudmer in 1982, where it was announced, had clearly understood that if the explanation of Pot Potin provided by Gabrielle Buffet and her daughter was accurate, then Pot Potin was authentic. This is why, in their joint submissions presented on 26 June 1973 at the Pot Potin trial, they held that the testimony of both these witnesses was a lie; for, if not, it became impossible to admit that a forger could be the only person in the know in 1968 (the date when Pot Potin appeared) about such particular goings-on in Picabia's life dating back to 1930, whereas those goings-on in 1968 were still unknown to Olga Picabia and to all the Picabia specialists.
And it is to be able to uphold the hypothesis that a forger producing Pot Potin, despite the proof not found until September 1998, showing that the testimony of Gabrielle Buffet and Gabriele Cécile Picabia was altogether exact, that the PC wrote that "one of the artist's close friends or relatives could have mentioned the Potin anecdote to a potential forger" (3).
In fact, however, when Pot Potin came onto the market in 1968, nobody mentioned these iconographic circumstances surrounding the work (the litigation with Mr. Potin and the drawing of lots). None of the certificates of authenticity issued by the artist's three widows: Gabrielle Buffet (October 1969, rep. no. 24, p. 50), Germaine Everling (undated, rep. no. 25, p. 54) and Olga Picabia (December 1970, rep. no. 26, p. 52) make mention of the connection between Pot Potin and those particular goings-on in Picabia's life, in 1930.
The controversy over the JMT series erupted as soon as these works appeared on the market, where Pot Potin was concerned, and thus lasted for almost three years (1969-71), without the iconographic explanation, dating from 1930, emerging, or being mentioned by anyone.
In fact nobody knew about or remembered that Picabia-Potin litigation and the ensuing drawing of lots, and the first person who did remember those events was Lorenzo Everling, as the testimony of his half-sister Gabriele Cécile recounts (rep. no. 23, p. 49).
Luck so had it that in the winter of 1971-72, Gabriele Cécile Picabia (Jeannine to her close friends) went to see her half-brother Lorenzo Everling in Cannes, and in mentioning to him the controversy over the JMT collages which had already been raging for three years, the latter recalled the Picabia-Potin litigation and the way it was settled by drawing lots. Back in Paris, Gabriele Cécile then wrote for me a handwritten statement and that is how the explanation for the Pot Potin iconography appeared for the first time.
So for the explanation of the iconographic source of Pot Potin to emerge, it took the convergence of three factors, all three based on chance:
-- that it was Pot Potin that its owner, Mr. Périnet, decided to put up for auction and not some other collage in the JMT series, of which he was also an owner.
-- that while the Pot Potin controversy was rife, Gabriele Cécile Picabia met her half-brother Lorenzo Everlin in Cannes.
-- and that during their meeting Gabriele Cécile Picabia told Lorenzo Everling about the Pot Potin controversy, and that the latter recalled the Picabia Potin anecdote about the Henriqueta.
So if Pot Potin was the work of a forger (one of the artist's close friends or relatives), it would have to be admitted that this latter waited three years (from 1968 to 1972) to reveal the 1930 Picabia-Potin litigation, and that Mr. Perinet, Gabriele Cécile Picabia and Lorenzo Everling were his accomplices.
Then in the wake of the pressures orchestrated by the Schwarz-Collinet-Petit threesome, Pot Potin was withdrawn from the auction conducted by Maitre Loudner planned for 27 May 1972.
Mr. Périnet, the owner of Pot Potin, then decided to lodge a complaint against the Schwarz-Collinet-Petit threesome, and Gabrielle Buffet drew up her testimony dated 30 May 1972 (rep. no. 22, p. 48), which was to be submitted at the Pot Potin trial, which would take place in 1973. And Gabriele Cécile Picabia drew up the typed copy of her handwritten testimony, also for submission at the said trial, dating it 12 July 1972 (rep. no. 23, p. 49).
In August 1998, the research I had embarked upon in the legal archives to unearth the legal documents pertaining to the Picabia-Potin litigation had still not borne fruit.
I therefore telephone Lorenzo Everling (that is the only contact I have ever had with him), for he might just possibly have some recall of "additional details" which would make it possible to hone my research in the legal archives.
Unfortunately, he could not remember anything else, other than what he had already told Gabriele Cécile in 1972.
I therefore asked him, by letter dated 28 August 1998, to reconfirm the testimony of Gabriele Cécile, and would ask the PC to publish my letter, thus showing readers the "pressure" to which I had allegedly subjected Lorenzo Everling. Two weeks later, in September 1998, I completed my research into the 1930 legal archives, and thus had all the legal documents proving that the testimony of Gabrielle Buffet and Gabriele Cécile Picabia was accurate in every point.
Last of all, in this paragraph, the PC refers to "other pseudo-Dadaist works" which "appeared en masse at the same time as the JMT series in an exhibition solely devoted to them," and compares this series of fakes (Hanover-Schwarz series) with the JMT series.
The PC adds that Mr. Camfield has drawn up a memorandum "which points out interesting technical and stylistic similarities between the two series, notably the presence in most of these works of typographic "papiers collés" (literally, glued papers), a technique which Picabia never used." This point is altogether inaccurate. Firstly, there is at least one Picabia work (an important one, to boot) using "typographic papiers collés": Chapeau de paille (1922), 92 x 73 cm (Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, for at least 20 years (rep. no. 27, p. 53).
Then the Hanover-Schwarz series of fakes has nothing whatsoever to do with the JMT series:
-- the works in the Hanover-Schwarz series are all drawings using Indian ink on paper enhanced by watercolor, whereas the JMT series (all except two) consists of gouaches on board.
-- stylistically, all the works in the Hanover-Schwarz serie4s relate to Picabia's mechanical period, 1917-22, whereas the JMT series relates stylistically to the years 1928-30 at the earliest.
I asked the PC to forward Mr. Camfield's "important memorandum," which the PC makes available "to those who are interest," in order to adjudge the arguments it presents with regard to the comparison between the JMT series and the Hanover-Schwarz series.
Lastly, the PC suggests that, today "perhaps Mr. Tarica" still recognizes the works in the Hanover-Schwarz series as authentic. This is also completely untrue, needless to add: when the Hanover-Schwarz series appeared on the market (ca. 1967-68), I was working as an art dealer, specializing in particular in Dada and Surrealist works. And yet I have never purchased or sold or undertaken any transaction whatsoever to do with a work in the Hanover-Schwarz series, and in certain instances I also dissuaded buyers, for I did not believe that the works in this series were authentic.
On this point, the PC text should rather have made mention of Mr. Arturo Schwarz, a Picabia expert according to the PC, who purchased a large number of works in the Hanover-Schwarz series (clearly in good faith) so as to put on an exhibition in his gallery.
e) "The Verona trial"
The PC document states that "Mr. Camfield received a long letter in excellent French" and explains the fact that he did not reply to it on account of "its aggressive tone and its anonymity (no name on the letterhead, illegible signature)." It therefore "did not deserve an answer."
Let us not beat about the bush: the Verona museum sent not one but three letters signed by Mr. Goergen (the senior assistant to the museum's director), dated 7 August 1997, 20 August 1997 and 28 August 1997, each time asking Mr. Camfield for his opinion about a list of 12 and then 13 works suspected of not being authentic.
These three letters are reproduced in full so that readers may adjudge for themselves whether the tone is "aggressive" (rep. no. 28, p. 54-5, rep. no. 29, p. 56-7 and rep no. 30, p. 58-60).
Mr. Camfield refused to answer these three letters even though he had already had exchanges by letter with the Verona museum, including a fax of 22 August, mentioned in the Verona museum letter dated 28 August. The Verona museum also sent two letters to Mrs. Borras dated 7 August and 20 August 1997 raising the same questions in exactly the same terms, and these two letters also remained unanswered.
The PC document adds that the letter sent by the Verona museum to Mr. Camfield is in "excellent French," possibly implying that it might have been dictated by myself. This is quite untrue: Mr. Goergen's letters are written in "excellent French" because he was born and resides in French-speaking Switzerland, and French is his mother tongue.
Further, the letter in the same vein which I myself wrote to Mr. Camfield is dated 29 July 1997 (rep. no. 31, p. 61), so it predates all those letters sent to Mr. Camfield and Mrs. Borras by the Verona museum; and my letter is radically different because it states that five works attributed to Picabia and featuring in the Picabia retrospective organized in 1997 in Lisbon are fakes, whereas all the letters from the Verona museum merely request confirmations of the potential authenticity of 12 or 13 works featuring in various Picabia exhibitions.
The PC carries on with "Blomet, 1947, a supposed fake that Mr. Tarica accused us of having authenticated. The work disappeared from the list of 'obvious fakes' when we indicated to him that it was reproduced in the Album Picabia (p. 144)."
This statement is inaccurate: my letter dated 29 July 1997 makes no mention of Blomet among the five fakes listed by me. The only PC members I have ever met are Mr. Camfield, Mrs. Borras and Mr. Pierre, on two occasions, at my home. These meetings in my home only had to do with the Picabia collages or, more particularly, the JMT series. I do not recall that we talked about Blomet, or that anyone ever showed me that "archival photo reproduced in the Album Picabia." Furthermore, I have no copy of this book.
The PC then makes various assertions based on a scientific analysis of the Portrait de femme II, the work involved in the Verona trial, to wit: ". . .the presence of an optical brightener [Stillbone] which dates the cardboard ground of the collage after 1945."
Greater caution is called for with regard to the dating of the appearance of different compounds. A scientific paper, published in 1993 and devoted especially to optical brighteners, by an expert, Mr. Guineau, gives 1937-39 as the date at which Stillbene appeared (rep. no. 32, p. 62 and rep. no. 33, p. 63).
The PC then explains that Stillbene "was examined not only with UV (ultraviolet light) but also with a microscope, in the core of the filters themselves." As I explained to Mr. Camfield in my letter dated 12 February 2001, UV fluorescence can have several causes, in particular the presence of another optical brightener (escalin, rep. no. 32, p. 62), or the physical and chemical degradation of the fibers.
And the optical microscope is not capable of penetrating nontransparent matter (such as the board surface), and is therefore incapable of reaching the actual core of the fibers, which, moreover, in this case, are surface-located fibers, thus permitting external contamination.
All this can be very easily checked with experts and there is plenty of scientific literature on these topics.
The last paragraph of the PC document states that my thesis "has changed over time," that I have defended the dates 1928-29 as being those of the works in the JMT series "for at least 20 years" and, thus, that I have invented the "remake thesis" (dating from the 1940-50 period) "to concord [the 1928-29 dating of the JMT collages] with new findings that he [Mr. Tarica] could no longer ignore," this new datum being the presence of Stillbene dating from 1945 in Portrait de femme II, a new datum "available from 11 January 1999." This, again, is altogether inaccurate. One proof of this, for example, is the date of Mr. Krier's letter: 29 September 1997 (rep. no. 9, p. 35).
Actually, as I wrote in my memorandum (PA, p. 10): "More than ten years ago I had occasion to see it [Centimètres], and I realized that the painted surface had been executed with Picabia's brushstrokes that correspond with his manner of painting in the 1940-50 period." Then I added (PA, again, p. 10): "Subsequently, in 1997, because of genuine works but ones declared to be fakes by the Committee, I was keen to try and demonstrate that the work, Les Centimètres, had indeed been produced in the 1940s, and not during the Dada period."
It was accordingly in late 1997, when Centimètres was exhibited in the Trento museum, that I was able to compare the matches featuring in it with samples provided by the expert, Mr. Krier, in order to prove that these matches dated from the 1940s and that Centimètres was therefore a remake from the 1940-50 period. This comparison was made 15 months before the new datum "[not] available [until] 11 January 1999." In late 1997, therefore, I had already sought and managed to find that Centimètres was a remake from the 1940-50 period, thus well before 11 January 1999.
Lastly, with regard to my dating of 1928-29 for the collages in the JMT series, the PC text refers to a meeting held on 20 July 1998, at my home, in order to show that I had changed my mind. During that meeting, "for almost four hours Mr. Tarica presented his case" to those present -- Mr. Camfield, Mr. Pierre, Mrs. Carole Boulbes and Mr. Hourrière (restorer at the National Museum of Modern Art), and the reasons why "no one could question the fact that according to him [Mr. Tarica] the [JMT] collages date from the end of the 1920s.
The PC then mentions, again to the same end, my letter of 29 July 1998 to Mr. Camfield in which, according to the PC, I reminded him of my "discoveries to do with the Henriqueta," in which I wrote: ". . .of course this contradicts what I think as the date of execution of the JMT series 1927-28 as Rocking Chair; and, again according to the PC, "I suggested the following interpretation: Picabia executes L'Anneau d'or des grands mystiques in 1927-28 and in 1929 adds Pot-Potin and the matches because of the events surrounding the Henriqueta."
It is correct that I wrongly thought that all the collages in the JMT series, irrespectively, dated from 1928-20.
My mistake was due both to the connection of certain of the JMT collages with Rocking Chair, as far as the painted composition was concerned (which does not imply the same dating for the glued elements, Pot Potin, Idées noires, for example) and also to dating errors made by all the experts and concerning classically known works (Centimètres, for example).
But the fact that I have partly changed my opinion regarding the dating of the collages in the JMT series does not alter a thing with regard to the authenticity of Pot Potin, nor, as a result, that of the other works in the JMT series; it merely changes their respective datings, by making an additional distinction between the dating of the different painted compositions and the dating of some of the glued elements.
Likewise, the classically known collages by Picabia have, for almost 20 years (between 1950 and 1970) been dated 1919-22 (the Dada period) before this dating error, which involved all the classically known collages, was first rectified in September 1970: their authenticity has nevertheless not been altered.
The PC has also stated in this same last paragraph that my letter of 29 July 1998 described my discoveries about the Henriqueta. This is quite incorrect: my discoveries on this subject did not occur until September 1998, so I could not have described them in my letter dated 29 July 1998. In this letter, in fact, I upheld the hypothesis that the testimony of Gabriele Cécile Picabia and Gabrielle Buffet explaining the iconography of Pot Potin was truthful and exact. And I formulated another hypothesis: that some of the collages featuring in Pot Potin must have been added after the date of execution of the painted composition (rep. no. 34, p. 64). Two weeks after this letter of 29 July 1998, the legal archives finally provided the proof demonstrating the accuracy of these two hypotheses.
In its reply to my PA memorandum, the PC could easily have avoided leveling many of its false accusations and making many of its mistaken assertions and statements, because I had, for a long time, been sending Mr. Camfield the various documents contradicting the said accusations and assertions. For example:
-- with regard to the fallacious accusation of my alleged approximation: ". . .the end of the 1920s" (chapter III, b, of this document): I had already pointed out, in detail, in my letter to Mr. Camfield of 27 July 1998, the existence of the second 1927 edition of the book L'Anneau d'or des grands mystiques.
-- with regard to the fallacious accusation of my having invented the remake thesis "to concord with new findings that [I] could no longer ignore," these new findings being "made available on 11 January 2999 (chapter III, e, of this document): I had already told Mr. Camfield in 1998 about all my correspondence (4) with the match expert, Mr. Krier, and I had told Mr. Camfield about the result of the comparison between matches, namely that Centimétres dated from the 1940s.
-- with regard to my letter of 29 July 1998 and the PC's incorrect statement that I imparted therein my "discoveries about the Henriquetta": as I explained, it was impossible for me to impart on 29 July 1999 discoveries which I did not make until September 1999. The reproduction of my letter of 29 July 1999 (rep. no. 34, p. 64) proves that, in it, I imparted just two hypotheses about the truthfulness of the testimony of Gabriele Cécile Picabia and Gabrielle Buffet, and about the dating of the textual collages Pot and Potin. Etc.
Moreover, I asked the PC for a faithful English translation of its French text: "In response to Mr. Tarica," so that I could distribute it in accordance with the PC's wishes.
This English translation differs from the French text over several points, in particular:
-- the accusation leveled by the PC in its French text whereby I possibly still believed in the authenticity of the fakes in the Hanover-Schwarz series; this accusation no longer appear in the English translation.
-- the PC's assertions in its French text, whereby the possible forger of Pot Potin might be "one of the artist's close friends or relatives" and since this hypothesis is "sadly so frequent," have been watered down in the English translation to "someone close to the artist," and the hypothesis has become simply "frequent."
-- in the PC's French text, the presence of "typographic papiers collés" has become "collage of elements cut from the text of publications."
-- in the PC's French text, the first names of the daughters of Gabrielle Buffet and Picabia are "Laure et Janine"; in the English translation provided by the PC these names have become Laure and Cécile (Jeanine)."
These modifications are not insignificant, but have been introduced to avoid facile refutations.
1. Mr. Christian Derouet, of the Museum of Modern Art, Georges Pompidou Centre, is, inter alia, the specialist of the Rosenberg Gallery archives.
2. The illustrative source of this motif is probably Gustave Courbet's L'Origine du Monde.
3. I.e., the Picabia/Potin litigation followed by the drawing of lots which was lost by Mr. Potin, so that the forger could make Pot Potin based on this information.
4. Including the letter from Mr. Krier dated 29 September 1997 which was also reproduced in full in my PA memorandum.
We think that our initial response to M. Tarica's "The Picabia Affair" has sufficiently clarified his motivations, his methods and the merits and demerits of his arguments. We elect to spare the reader and ourselves by not participating in the unproductive point-counterpoint he now pursues. If you are interested in this affair, we suggest that you consult that first exchange of his attack and our response.