Modern and Contemporary Art
Catch as Catch Can
Francis Picabia, French, 1879 - 1953
Oil on canvas© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
39 5/8 x 32 1/8 inches (100.6 x 81.6 cm)
Currently not on view
1950-134-156The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950
LabelIn this painting, Picabia combined the memory of a no-holds-barred wrestling match (known as "catch-as-catch-can") with the motions of a Polish dancer he saw rehearsing aboard an ocean liner. The inscription "Edtaonisl 1913" mixes up the letters of the French words étoil(e) [star] and dans(e) [dance] to describe this celebrated performer.
Marcel Duchamp, Paris, from the artist, 1926; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 8, 1926, lot 10, illus.; purchased by André Breton, Paris ; sold to Louise and Walter C. Arensberg, Los Angeles, through the Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 1937 ; gift to PMA, 1950.
1. Although Duchamp played the role of "owner", the auction was in fact a sale of eighty works from Picabia's own collection; see Borràs, Picabia, New York, 1985, p. 288 and p. 295-6. A contemporary newspaper account by Maurice Monda recorded the buyers and prices: see William Camfield, Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, p. 217, n. 10. See also Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, André Breton: La beauté convulsive (exh. cat., Musée national d'art moderne), Paris, 1991, p. 494; and William Camfield, Francis Picabia (exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum), New York, 1970, no. 33, p. 79.
2. Purchased by the Arensbergs from the Museum of Modern Art exhibition, "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism," to which Breton had lent the painting (see letters from the Museum of Modern Art dated 2 November and 12 November 1951, PMA Arensberg Archives, CA Use Tax correspondence). See also letter from Walter Arensberg to Marcel Duchamp, Oct. 27, 1937: "By the way, we hope to get from the Modern Museum Picabia's Catch as Catch Can...." (PMA Arensberg Archives).