Spanish Night

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Francis Picabia-La Nuit Espagnole 1922

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.

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24 thoughts on “Spanish Night

  1. Its interesting that the female figure has the targets over her heart and her womb (?) but both are riddled with bullet holes. Why did he abandon Dadaism? And were Dada and Surrealism at odds? And if so why? Sorry for the questions, I recently read a short article on Dada -the WWI connection… probably one of those situations where ‘the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know….’

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    1. He was one of the main players in New York Dada with Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, but by 1921 Dada had become increasingly nihilistic, as I noted in Sleep Spaces Dada had negated itself out of existence. Andre Breton was heavily involved in Paris Dada but saw the writing in the wall and was looking to create a more constructive movement. By the time of the surrealist manifesto of 1924 Dada activity has ceased. Thank you for the questions, hope that has clarified the situation.

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      1. Yes a lot did move over to surrealism or contributed to surrealism. The major figures from the New York Group (Ray, Duchamp, Picabia) all contributed (they had moved to Paris by this stage). Paris Group under Breton all became Surrealists, Ernst was heavily involved with the Cologne and Hans/Jean Arp was from the initial Zurich Group, Cabaret Voltaire and all that. In fact so close are the connections between the two movements that a lot of studies are called Dada and Surrealism.

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      2. When I have more time (when is that?) I’ll have to read more of the background of the two. I think the history is as interesting as the art. You’ve done a fabulous job with your posts on surrealism. Whetting the appetite for more. What Cake Likes – the coffee table book.

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    1. Very true they could indeed be stars which would tie in nicely with the Spanish Night theme. The target areas aren’t necessary target areas either, they could be eyes, which Picabia was obsessed with.

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  2. If they were stars, I would expect to recognize a constellation or a different grouping. They look more like target practice. Interesting how these forms lead to the wonderful Spanish propaganda posters of the Civil War. Marvelous artwork, most of it.

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  3. Mr. Cake, imagine that, a moody artist. This is a brilliant painting, it must be striking in person, with the use of enamel paint. There is something so appealing about the black and white contrast, and the perfect balance of the piece. It’s complicated, yet simple… ~ Miss Cranes

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    1. Hmmm I think most artists are moody but Picabia was moodier than most. Plus he really didn’t care what others thought about him. It is a brilliant painting, and as you rightly said, simple yet complex. Thank you for your kind comments as always Miss Cranes.

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