Francis Picabia

Francis Picabia



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Paris, 1879 – 1953

Born in 1879 in his grandfather’s house in Paris to a French mother and a Cuban-born Spanish father, Picabia became an artist who was linked closely to most key issues and movements of the modern era.

In 1888 Picabia entered the École des Arts Décoratifs and became close friends with Rodo (Manzana) Pissarro, who introduced him to his father, the painter Camille Pissarro. At the beginning of his career Picabia became well-known as an Impressionist painter and began to exhibit his paintings at the Salon d’Automne and Salon des Indépendents. Between 1908 and 1912 he sought a more personal manner of expansion and explored Neo-Impressionist, Fauvist, and Cubist styles. Significantly, in 1908 Picabia met his future wife, Gabrielle Buffet, a music student. His wife’s money enabled Picabia to travel and in 1913 Picabia and his wife travelled to New York for the Armory Show, where Picabia exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz’s “291” gallery. With Marcel Duchamp, he formed a New York branch of the Dada movement. This period marked the beginning of Picabia’s machinist paintings in which machinery and technology were subverted and given sexual personae. In the summer of 1916 Picabia left New York to settle in Barcelona, where in 1917 he began the publication of the dadaist magazine entitled “391”. During the 1920s Picabia produced provocative paintings that incorporated matchsticks, curlers and buttons, and in 1923 he began to make “Dada collages”, which were followed by a series of “Monsters” and in the late 1920s, the “Transparencies”. During the early years of Surrealism Picabia took part in a number of important Surrealist exhibitions though he was always reluctant to become totally adherent to the movement. His extreme originality, extravagant nature and propagandist buffoonery exerted an important influence on the Surrealist movement during these years. In the 1930s his work grew more varied and became naturalistic. In 1936 he took part in the highly important international exhibition of Dada and Surrealist works at the MOMA, New York. Picabia died in the same house he was born in, on November 30th 1953.