Francis Picabia first draft
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Francis Picabia (*First Draft)
Francis Picabia [1879- 1953] was a very ecliptic Avant-Garde artist and writer, who mostly worked in the close shadows of Marcel Duchamp. The French born artist was most famous for his work in Cubism (starting as early as 1909) and Dadaism but often times created work outside of those movements (Camfield 21). Some of his most famous works included La Source, Udnie, Voilà Haviland (La poésie est comme lui), and La Saint Vierge (The Blessed Virgin).
Picabia was born in Paris on January 22nd, 1879 to Cuban-born Spaniard Francisco Vicente Martinez Picabia and French Native Marie Cecile Davanne (Camfield 1). In his early adulthood Picabia studied at the École des Arts Decoratifs, where other famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec studied (“Francis Picabia Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works”). He married Gabrielle Buffet in 1909 (Camfield 3).
Although landscape paintings were what originally caused him his fame, cubism and abstract art were both dominant parts of Picabia’s early art career. He was extremely fascinated with modern and urban art which later translated into an obsession with machines and mechanics. Picabia’s interest in technology within cubism is what eventually led him into Dadaism.
Picabia and Marcel Duchamp are seen as the two true founding fathers of Dadaism (Hopkins 15). In the fall of 1911 Picabia and Duchamp had established a strong relationship after both were involved with an organization known as the Société Normande de Peinture Moderne (Camfield 21). The dynamic duo impacted each other’s works for the rest of their lives and often worked in the same artistic circles. Picabia and Duchamp spread the Dada movement to American when they visited New York City in 1913, and were a part of the Armory Show, among other famous Avant-Garde social circles.
In 1915, in the wake of the American Industrial Revolution, Picabia became obsessed with mechanics and machinery. He loved to draw parallels between human kind and technology.
Picabia, despite not truly being a household name artist, was the “leading spokesperson for the Avant-Garde movement on American soil” (Umland). But beyond New York City, with Dada in particular Picabia really made a significant impact with not only spreading it through Zurich, Barcelona, and Paris but also by being one of the first artists to really test the limits and define what Dadaism was. La Saint Vierge is often seen as the groundbreaking piece of art that really started Dadaism or helped to bring the movement to the public eye (Hopkins 15).
During World War I Picabia sought refuge in Barcelona, Spain, causing yet another chapter in his art career. Outside of Dadaism, Picabia became inspired by “Spanish subjects, Romanesque and Renaissance sources” (“Francis Picabia Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works”), which eventually translated into his works in the 1920s referred to as the Transparencies. The Transparencies were a collection of works “in which outlines of figurative images from ancient Catalan and renaissance art are overlaid with animal, floral and cosmological references” (Francis 243). Also, while working in Barcelona, Picabia worked on and published a magazine called 391, to further spread the Avant-Garde movement.
Picabia’s art career, which lasted around 50 years, was “marked by a consistent inconsistency” (Dupêcher). Because he often struggled with his own identity and beliefs, it showed in his art, which is why we see his dabble in so many different art forms through various passages of his life. Picabia died in 1953, in the same home he was born in in Paris (“Francis Picabia: Biography”).