About This Artwork

Francis Picabia
French, 1879–1953

Edtaonisl (Ecclesiastic), 1913

Oil on canvas
118 x 118 in. (300.4 x 300.7 cm)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Armand Bartos, 1953.622

© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

In 1911 Francis Picabia met Marcel Duchamp, who had devised a unique style of painting that combined Cubist elements with pseudodiagrams in humorous compositions. Stimulated by Duchamp’s example, Picabia pioneered a new, colorful, and intellectual visual language, of which Edtaonisl is a prime example.

This picture relates to Picabia’s experience aboard a transatlantic ship in 1913, on his way to the opening of the Armory Show, North America’s first major exhibition of modern art. Picabia was amused by two fellow passengers—an exotic Polish dancer named Stasia Napierskowska and a Dominican priest who could not resist the temptation of watching her rehearse with her troupe. While the tumultuous shapes in this work suggest fragments of bodies and nautical architecture, the depiction of specific forms is less important than the effective expression of contrast and rocking motion, which evokes the sensations of dance and a ship moving through rolling seas. On the top right of the canvas, Picabia painted the word Edtaonisl—an acronym made by alternating the letters of the French words étoile (star) and dans[e] (dance), a process analogous to the artist’s shattering and recombining of forms. He subtitled the work Ecclesiastic, hinting at the juxtaposition of the spiritual and the sensual.

— Entry, The Essential Guide, 2013, p.255.

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