Francis Picabia - Les châtaigniers à Munot, effet du soleil

Francis Picabia

Les châtaigniers à Munot, effet du soleil

Oil on canvas: 28.7(h) x 36.3(w) in /

73(h) x 92.1(w) cm

"Signed and dated lower right: Picabia 1907; signed, titled and dated on the stretcher"

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1879 – Paris – 1953


Les châtaigniers à Munot, effet de soleil


Signed and dated lower right: Picabia 1907;

signed, titled and dated on the stretcher

Oil on canvas: 28 ¾ x 36 ¼ in / 73 x 92.1 cm

Frame size: 37 x 44 3/8 in / 93.9 x 112.7 cm

In a Louis XIV style composition frame



Private collection, France;

Sale Maîtres Laurin, Guilloux, Buffetand, Tailleur, Paris, 13th December 1977;

private collection, France;

by descent in a private collection, Paris


To be included in the Catalogue Raisonné de l’Oeuvre de Francis Picabia being prepared by Beverley Calté and the Comité Picabia



Born in Paris in 1879 into a wealthy Franco-Cuban family, Francis Picabia brimmed with confidence and naturally embraced the avant-garde, becoming in later life an exponent of Dada and Surrealism. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Fernand Cormon and attended the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs from 1895 to 1897, but by 1904 had sloughed off the dark palette of academic painting to engage with Impressionism. He was particularly influenced by the work of Camille Pissarro, a political free-thinker constantly open to new artistic influences, and by that of Alfred Sisley, with his intense and highly personal response to nature.


From 1903 onwards Picabia frequently painted in and around Moret-sur-Loing near Fontainebleau, which was home to Alfred Sisley from 1880 until 1899. Like Sisley, he was fascinated by the quiet stretches of the Loing, fringed by tall trees. In 1906-7 Picabia painted at Munot, in the Loire valley south of Moret. Les châtaigniers à Munot, effet de soleil has the spontaneity of the Impressionist tradition, but also a monumentality that is Picabia’s own. On a day of breathless heat, the canopies of the chestnut trees stand out against a pulsating blue sky, leaves barely ruffled. A lone figure stoops to pick up something in a meadow burnished to gold by the summer sun. Picabia’s figures, often solitary, bring a touch of poetic wistfulness to the scene. The artist revels in the light and colour that pours out of the canvas. The leaves are composed from energetic dabs of emerald green, sludgy blue, burgundy and gold, while the myriad of yellow dashes that comprise the meadow are interwoven with touches of blue and green shadow. Positioning himself as a student of nature, a free, instinctive painter, Picabia declared: ‘My school is the sky, the countryside, whether desolate or picturesque, the lanes, the valleys, life in the open air. The sun is the great master[1]. Reviewing Picabia’s hugely successful one-man exhibition at Galerie Haussmann in 1905, the art critic Louis Vauxcelles wrote simply: ‘this painter paints with joy’[2].


Picabia made another painting of Les châtaigniers à Munot, effet de soleil, Munot, Nièvre, dated 1906 (Collection of Mr and Mrs Bruce Toll in 2011)[3], in which the long shadows and deep green leaves suggest a late afternoon scene. Another exploration of this motif, Les châtaigniers, 1907 (Collection of The Hon. David Montagu in 1975)[4] shares the bright palette of the present view.



1879 – Paris – 1953


Exuberant, extravagant and individualistic, Francis Picabia was one of the most influential artists of the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Paris in 1879 of wealthy Cuban and French parents, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Fernand Cormon and attended the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs from 1895 to 1897.


Picabia’s first works were Impressionist landscapes influenced by Pissarro and Sisley. In 1909 he married the musicologist Gabrielle Buffet (they divorced in 1931), with whom he shared an interest in the avant-garde. Picabia adopted the harmonies of form, colour and movement outlined by the poet Guillaume Apollinaire in his definition of Orphism (1912) and exhibited works with the Section d’Or that year.


In 1913 Picabia exhibited at the Armory Show in New York which introduced the French avant-garde to America. The jazzy rhythms and frenetic pace of New York life were reflected in his dazzling, fractured gouaches, echoing the Futurists’ obsession with modern urban life. Picabia spent the First World War in New York, Barcelona and Switzerland, collaborating with Alfred Steiglitz at his 291 gallery and developing Dada with Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp’s concept of the ‘ready-made’ influenced Picabia’s works in which machine parts express human sexuality, ridiculing bourgeois art and morality. In Barcelona in 1916, Picabia began to publish the magazine 391, which had a decisive influence on Dada in France. From 1919 to 1924 he produced his most seminal Dadaist works in Paris, the butt of public outrage, but applauded by critics such as André Breton. Typically averse to confining himself to one style, he also painted large, pseudo-Classical figure compositions.


In 1925, considering that Dada had become far too mainstream, Picabia used a large inheritance from his uncle, Maurice Davanne, to buy a house at Mougins, near Cannes. He produced a series of Monsters, figures with doubled eyes and quivering outlines, and Transparencies (1927-c.1931), figures transposed onto landscapes and flowers in a mélange of shifting visions. Both mockingly reflect the great tradition of European painting, with motifs from Michelangelo, Titian and Rubens.


In the late 1930s Picabia experimented with abstract painting. His brash Hollywood nudes, produced during the Second World War, have been seen as precursors of Pop Art. In 1940 he married Olga Mohler, the former nanny of his son Lorenzo by his mistress Germaine Everling. They returned to Paris in 1945. Picabia continued to experiment and also to re-explore elements of his previous styles, often overpainting earlier works. He died in Paris on 30th November 1953.


The work of Francis Picabia is represented in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Philadephia Museum of Art; Tate, London; the Pompidou Centre, Paris; the Kunsthaus, Zurich and the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid.


Susan Morris

[1] Quoted in Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Picabia, London 1985, p.49.

[2] Quoted in William A Camfield et. al., Francis Picabia Catalogue Raisonné Volume I 1898-1914, Brussels 2014, p.48.

[3] Camfield, op. cit., pp.244-5, no.250, illus. in colour.

[4] Camfield, ibid., pp.266-7, no.313, illus. in colour.

ImpressionistFrancis Picabia