A Muddy Spring

Among the Picabias mentioned in an earlier post is one called The Spring, so presumably lacking the dancing figures. The writer in the Inventing Abstraction catalog observes

Francis Picabia, La Source (The Spring) 1912

Francis Picabia, La Source (The Spring) 1912

that this spring looks pretty muddy, that the colors of the picture might have more to do with shit (cows and horses?) than clear, sparkling water. I find the idea of a befouled spring very interesting, because the subject of “La Source” lies in a long tradition, going back to artists such as Poussin, who painted river gods dozing over amphorae out of which water endlessly flows. The relation between material human bodies and the limpid stream of inspiration has been a great unexamined topic for a long time, and  it occurs to me that Picabia has just invented it – it’s been there but not realized.  Picasso’s Three Women at the Fountain is pretty earthy too, and remembering his friendship with Picabia it might owe something to the earlier work. The figures are more easily seen in

Francis Picabia, Dances at the Spring I 1912

Francis Picabia, Dances at the Spring I 1912

the Philadelphia version than in the one I posted previously, and it seems not the classical three – it appears to be two women in an intimate dance, if I may make such an improbable suggestion. They remind me of a couple of dancers in Botticelli’s Primavera, so the parodic element is strong, as we might suspect with Picabia. What a genius he was. But the point is that we can barely see the figures in Dances II, and they really only come into view through comparison with Dances I, so the fact that they’re not labeled in La Source doesn’t mean they’re not there.

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