Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
Le peuplier, effet de soleil, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne
signed and dated ‘Picabia 1906’ (lower right); signed and dated again and inscribed 'F. Picabia, le peuplier effet de soleil, Villeneuve sur Yonne 1906' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
2334 x 2834 in. (60.3 x 73 cm.)
Painted in 1906
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 8 March 1909, lot 37.
Anon. sale, Hôtel Westminster, Nice, 18-19 November 1989, lot 294.
Pastor & Gismondi, Monte-Carlo.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1990.
W.A. Camfield, B. Calté, C. Clements and A. Pierre, Francis Picabia: Catalogue Raisonné, 1898-1914, New Haven, 2014, vol. I, p. 248, no. 261 (illustrated in color, p. 249).
Paris, Galerie Haussmann, Picabia, February 1907, no. 36 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

In 1897-1898, Picabia’s interest in the Impressionist style bloomed from his discovery of Alfred Sisley’s work and was further cemented through his friendship with Camille Pissarro and his family. In 1903, Picabia exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants, the Salon de Mai, the Salon d’Automne and the Salon Annuel du Cercle Volney—with his participation in these shows, the artist reached a new point in his career. With growing confidence, the artist found acclaim as a professional artist and continued to work in the Impressionist style. Picabia escaped the city, opting for the picturesque villages of Moret, Montigny-sur-Loing, and Villeneuve-sur-Yvonne, as in the present painting. Through these landcapes, the artist adopted freer, more expressive brushwork to translate atmospheric effects.

In the footsteps of Sisley and Pissarro, Picabia explored the outdoors, focusing on rendering nature through light and color. During this period, Picabia departed from the rigidity of the Academy, embracing instead a more emotional interpretation of his subject. The visual effects took precedence over minutia as the artist employed short brushstrokes in harmoniously contrasting hues.

In Le peuplier, effet de soleil, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, Picabia depicted a quotidian scene of modern life: two figures strolling along a riverbank on a summer day, while an old man fishes from a small boat by the shore. The trail invites the viewer into the depths of the scenery; we recognize the hilly Burgundian countryside in the background and the stone houses typical of the region. A few light clouds decorate a soft blue sky with the deeper blue at the top of the canvas gradually fading into a lighter cadet shade as it reaches the landscape. To the right, a blooming poplar tree towers above in deep forest greens which contrastingly fade into more minty and lime tones. In the Impressionist manner, freely brushed colors take precedence over line and contour. Picabia’s strokes are visible to the eye and vary in range, size, direction and color, creating a purposeful sense of movement.

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