1922’s La Nuit Espagnole (Spanish Night) marks the return to a more figurative approach for the mercurial Francis Picabia (see FOR-EVER) after a decade of experimentation with Orphism, Cubism, Proto-Dada and Dada. The previous year Picabia had broken with Dada after producing a violently anti-Dada manifesto, and he moved closer to the group gathered around Andre Breton. However such an anarchic spirit couldn’t ever be tethered down to any particular movement for long, and in 1924 he turned his back on the art world altogether, though he continued to paint in a bewildering array of styles for a number of decades.
Showing the influence of commercial illustration and graphic design, Picabia painted La Nuit Espagnole using black and white enamel paint. A silhouette of a devilish flamenco dancer approaches a naked women with suggestive targets areas reminiscent of De Chirico, who on occasion painted concentric circles on his figures (see Premonition). Both figures appear to be riddled with bullet holes. A striking painting by the most debonair, cynical and acerbic of Modern artists.