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Francis Picabia (French, 1879–1953)
LOT ID: 71922
Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich), ie. circa 1940

Charcoal, on paper
13.39 х 11.8 in. (34.01 x 29.97 cm.)
Signed, on recto.
Lot description
Framed size: 14.17 x 13 inches

This work was purchased from a private collection in France several years ago. It had been in the previous owner's possession since the early 1940s. This is the first time this piece has been offered at auction.

Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich) is an amazing charcoal portrait by prominent French artist Francis Picabia, prominent French artist and one of the leading figures in Surrealism, Cubism and Dada. Here Picabia depicted one of his muses, German actress and cinema and style icon of the 20th century, Marlene Dietrich. At the center of the page, Marlene Dietrich’s face is masterfully depicted, with sharp lines and shadows perfectly emulating the actress’ stunning and unmistakable bone structure. Dietrich’s head appears as an autonomous form, detached and floating in space, steering the work into the realm of the surreal. The union of the subject matter, essentially a disparate head, with the sexual allusions of her facial features makes this portrait somewhat disturbing, as it mixes themes of beauty with death, both recurring subjects throughout Picabia’s oeuvre.

Paris-born Francis Picabia (1879-1953), a colleague of Marcel Duchamp, exhibited in the original—1913—Armory Show in New York. He denounced Dada in 1921 and famously attacked the Surrealists and André Breton in 1924. Today, the artist is known for his polemicist humor and his juxtaposition of words and letters in his compositions.

Selected public collections:
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Tate Gallery, London, UK
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Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich) by Francis Picabia
  • Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich) by Francis Picabia
  • Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich) by Francis Picabia
  • Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich) by Francis Picabia
  • Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich) by Francis Picabia
  • Portrait de femme (Marlene Dietrich) by Francis Picabia
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