Jules Schmalzigaug's Futurist Composition at Sotheby's is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

Courtesy Sotheby's

The problem with staring at an old chestnut like "The Scream" – since last night, the auction world's record holder – is that it takes too much work to think or feel anything fresh. (I wrote about my final encounter with the Munch in today's Daily Beast.) That's why, at the same Sotheby's preview where "The Scream" was on view, I got way more pleasure from doping out this utterly obscure abstraction painted in 1914 by the absolutely unknown Belgian futurist named Jules Schmalzigaug. He seems to have been in almost on the ground floor of modernism, but somehow he fell through its cracks. Schmalzigaug committed suicide in 1917, when he was only 34, but instead of that tabloid death launching him to fame, it cast him into oblivion. One more thing: Schmalzigaug's piece is on sale in today's afternoon sale, with a high estimate of only $350,000, so there's still a chance to nab it before his stock rises. (And I'm not even asking for a cut.)

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