Jean Crotti

Portrait of Edison


Not on display

Jean Crotti 1878–1958
Original title
Portrait d'Edison
Gouache, watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 489 × 645 mm
frame: 625 × 870 × 30 mm
Purchased 1978

Display caption

A strand of Dada production was associated with an ironic and subversive view of science.
Jean Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp infused much of their work with this attitude, which brought them close to Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. Crotti’s Portrait of Edison may both celebrate and subvert the reputation of Thomas Edison, the great inventor associated with electric lights, telephones and recording. The phonograph especially seems to be deconstructed in the lower part of the composition.

Gallery label, July 2011

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Catalogue entry

Jean Crotti 1878-1958

T02315 Portrait d'Edison (Portrait of Edison) 1920

Inscribed 'J. Crotti. | 1920' b.r.; the composition incorporates the words 'EDISON Inventeur', and 'L'AU DELA', and the letters and numbers '4PO', '3', 'YU' and 'F'
Gouache, watercolour and pencil on paper, 19 1/4 x 25 3/8 (48.9 x 64.5)
Purchased from the Brook Street Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1978
Prov: Sale of works by Suzanne Duchamp and J. Crotti, Drouot, Paris, 18 February 1970, lot 57, repr.; bt. Brook Street Gallery, London; with B.H. Holland Gallery, Chicago; with Brook Street Gallery, London
Exh: Retrospective Jean Crotti, Musée Galliera, Paris, December 1959-January 1960 (95); Art of the Dadaists, Helen Serger, La Boetie, Inc., New York, September-November 1977 (not in catalogue)
Repr: Waldemar George, Jean Crotti (Paris 1930), n.p.; Waldemar George, Jean Crotti et la Primauté du Spirituel (Geneva 1959), repr. pl.26 and in colour on cover

A work of Crotti's Dada period, painted as a tribute to the famous American inventor Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), whose more than one thousand patents included the incandescent electric lamp, the phonograph, the carbon telephone transmitter, and the motion-picture projector. The trumpet-like loudspeaker with the notes issuing from it is clearly an allusion to his phonograph. None of the other forms can be identified precisely, though the bow shape at the top left marked 'L'AU DELA' (The Beyond) appears to be some kind of aerial and the three pale arched forms grouped together in the centre may have been intended to suggest electric lamps.

The background has faded somewhat and was originally a stronger blue, as can be seen round the edges where it has been protected by the mount.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.135, reproduced p.135

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