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Francis PICABIA (1879 1953)


Francis PICABIA - Sans titre

Document sans nom

This article is taken from the Larousse book "Dictionary of painting".
French painter (Paris 1879 – id 1953).
n 1894, wanting to experience the early vocation of his son, "Pancho" Picabia sent to the Salon des artistes français the painting of Francis entitled Vue des Martigues. The painting was not only accepted, but awarded, and Francis entered the School of Decorative Arts the following year; But he was more willing to attend the Louvre school and the Humbert academy, where he worked alongside Braque and Marie Laurencin. The year 1897 marked a turning point in his career: Sisley's discovery revealed to him Impressionism, for which his enthusiasm was reinforced by the meeting of the Pissarro family (1898). This is the beginning of an extremely fruitful period, which will last ten years; the hundreds of paintings he painted, where the impressionist influence remains more or less sensitive, are suitable to seduce the public: his first solo exhibition in 1905, at gal. Haussmann is a triumph. The paintings exhibited, foreign to new plastic research, are part of the imitation of "pure impressionist luminism" (Bords du Loing, 1905 Philadelphia, Museum of Art). However, Picabia is gradually questioning the plastic values that have given it its growing success; and, in 1908, his meeting with Gabrielle Buffet — who encouraged him to pursue recent research — determined the break with Impressionism as with its merchants, a break also permitted by his personal fortune.
The period that begins is marked by the great diversity of his research: Although Abstraction especially fascinates him, that is to say "a painting situated in pure invention which recreates the world of forms according to his own desire and imagination" (F. Picabia quoted by G. Buffet-Picabia in Aires abstraites), he is also interested in Cubism and Fauvism (Ruchouc, c. 1909, Paris, M. N. A. M.; Landscape, 1909, id. ; the Regattas, 1911). But the decisive meeting of his career was that of Marcel Duchamp, c. 1911, when he was already married to Gabrielle Buffet. It is thanks to Duchamp that he enters the "cenacle" of Puteaux, at the Duchamp-Villon; He was opposed to any attempt by Gleizes and Metzinger to put Cubism into theory; it is with him that he stays in the Jura with Gabrielle Buffet and Apollinaire, who writes his famous poem Zone. Soon after, the exhibition of the Gold Section was organized, in October 1912, at the gal. Boetia (Dances at the source, 1912, Philadelphia, Museum of Art). Picabia then visited the United States from January to May 1913 as a "spokesperson" for this art nouveau, which was to be presented at the Armory Show in New York. This experience will profoundly mark him: multiple interviews in the major newspapers, lectures in the circles of the wealthy "anarchist" bourgeoisie constitute the climate conducive to the flowering of its noisy character. The great American city also struck him with its colors, rhythms, love of sport and jazz, which soon inspired him to a series of watercolors (New York, 1913, watercolor and gouache, Paris, M. N. A. M.; Chanson nègre, 1913, Metropolitan Museum), which will find their development when, on his return to Paris, he creates large canvases where shapes and colors alone make it possible to apprehend a reality "other" than that of "objective" forms (Catch as catch can, 1913, Philadelphia, Museum of Art; Udine, 1913, Paris, M. N. A. M.; I remember my dear Udine, c. 1914, New York, M. O. M. A.). It is from this period that Apollinaire will take into account in his "orphic" theory of art. But already "mechanomorphic" elements appear in the artist's paintings: the machine, this "girl born without a mother", will then see its role increase up to the simple reproduction of engineer's epures with phrases borrowed from the pink pages of the Petit Larousse (Voila la femme, 1915; This is the girl born without a mother, 1916-17). This desire to hijack material borrowed from another context will never cease.

War breaks out: initially mobilized in Paris, Picabia was sent on a mission to Cuba in 1915; but its stopover in new york lasts almost a year: he met Marcel Duchamp and other friends, with whom he participated in the avant-garde magazine 291. After several months of a life of debauchery, he abandoned his brushes for a time and composed the first of his Fifty-Two Mirrors, published in Barcelona in 1917; he made a very short trip to Cuba to accomplish his "mission", then, reformed, he left with his wife for Barcelona in August 1916. There he met Gleizes, Marie Laurencin, the "poet-boxer" Arthur Cravan, with whom he soon published a magazine which, in memory of 291, was called 391. Four issues appeared in Barcelona, while he slowly resumed his taste for drawing (Novia, 1917; Flamenca, 1917, in 391, nos. 1 and 3). In March 1917, Picabia left for New York, where he stayed for six months: he revived 391, which became American for three issues, and participated with Marcel Duchamp in the first exhibition of the Independents of New York. But new anxieties embrace him and decide him to return to Europe.


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