Fine Books and Manuscripts / PICABIA AS ARTIST, POET AND PHILOSOPHER. PICABIA, FRANCIS. 1879-1953. Archive of 17 Autograph Letters Signed (Francis and Francis P) in French to Jennie Thiersch including an original ink drawing of two birds, and 3 autograph poems, one full-page and signed in full Francis Picabia,
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PICABIA AS ARTIST, POET AND PHILOSOPHER.
WITH: a collection of original photographs including a portrait of Picabia, Olga and Jennie Thiersch, two portraits of Picabia himself, a candid portrait of Olga Picabia, two portraits of Jennie, and a signed portrait of "Antoine Coiffeur," famed hairdresser Antoine of Paris.
WITH: an ORIGINAL SIGNED WATERCOLOR BY HANS STOCKER, used as a card for his autograph note signed ("Hans Stocker"), 1 p, Herbst, 1951.
WITH: 3 autograph letters from Max and Charlotte, 6 pp total, Paris and Geneva, September-December, 1948.
Provenance: Jennie Thiersch; by descent.
A TOUCHING ARCHIVE OF PRIVATE LETTERS FROM FRANCIS PICABIA TO LONG-TIME FRIEND JENNIE THIERSCH, CONTAINING THREE AUTOGRAPH POEMS, AND AN ORIGINAL INK DRAWING. Written after his return to Paris in 1945, these letters are filled with affection and philosophical reflections on art, life, and growing old. Though not much is known of Jennie Thiersch in the Picabia record, the tone of the letters make it clear that theirs was a long and close relationship, transcending Picabia's art or fame. In the letters he writes to Jennie with news of Madame Hagenbach and Jean Arp, Germaine [Everling], and Gabrièle [Buffet], indicating further the long-standing nature of their relationship.
Some choice examples of his reflections (translated from the French):
"Insatiable life always imposes on our poor hearts the most difficult concessions. In the end, we abandon all: our hair, the liveliness of our face, the firmness of our skin, the flexibility of our joints—bit by bit, detail by detail, we surrender all to those who will follow us. We become less and less difficult and finish by being satisfied with little. We're content to be alive and I often ask myself why. Everything reminds me what my life was, that precarious physiological functioning. I now dream fearfully about the excessive complications of everything, about that inescapable muddle in which we were living ... and for what reason?"
"But thinking is the least healthy thing in the world[;] one can die from it like a sickness.* I hope that we will be able to maintain for yet a long time the joy of being together. You know, let us be happy. You don't have to be logical to do that—that's for imbeciles and dogmatists—let's not be like those annoying people who drive their principles to the bitter end of their lives."
"I don't want to do like Raphaél, who unites sublimity with stupidity|;] friendship is better than painting; for my vanity would not be satisfied at all if I sought to make myself a sublime painter. In friendship at least I have the impression of not being alone."
"... it used to be [enough] to make a good name for oneself, but that won't do today; The public arena has become too big; reputation needs cries, the best painting cannot exist, it cannot have the genius of our time."
"Once in a while I have an escapist view of life that should represent the sole reality. That miraculous patience of fate, I accept but with sadness! I received the gift of life as a natural thing! But in the event that I put sorrow to the test, I should know how to delight in simply breathing, for there really isn't anything else; everything is Nothing — too often have I allowed the sun's rays to lose themselves in the void instead of collecting the universe from them.
Now I would give anything in order to awaken aroma, sound, sight, for today I live like a machine. I give myself over to occupations, neglecting the sole urgent and essential which would be to soak up the most you can out of life and which slips away and which nothing can replace. I have pursued far-off goals; even supposing I attain them, they no longer interest me. They are too far away, and my spirit is not the same as it was 50 years ago. I have the favor of memory, which only makes me feel more acutely the sadness of my situation, that of a man dying of hunger who was for a moment in the isolated life of a millionaire — [a] privilege to know my current
state, [I] who believe only in Nothing. These few lines are the follow-up to our conversation at your place in Basel...you know, the evening when we kept you up so late."
Within the letters there are additionally 3 original autograph poems of Picabia, also unpublished, and a sweet drawing of two birds carrying a letter. Beneath the drawing he has added a post-script: "P.S. It's raining and cold / You know, our house was robbed, unfortunately, with great profit to them [the thieves]."
Unknown to scholarship, and never before published or revealed, these touching letters full of humor, joy, sadness, philosophy and most of all affection shine a bright light on Picabia the man. In full candor, he discusses the intimate issues that confront him in the sunset of his life. This incident, the robbery in his Paris atelier in 1949, is mentioned almost as an afterthought, but had a profound effect on the final years of his life leaving him with little money. These detailed and revealing letters cut to the heart of the man behind the artist.