Picabia, Francis

Picabia, Francis Biography

French painter who was successively involved with the Cubist, Dadaist, and Surrealist movements.

Born in Paris to a wealthy family, Francis Picabia attended the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs from 1895 to 1897. He painted for nearly six years in an Impressionist mode akin to that of Alfred Sisley. In 1909 he adopted a Cubist style. Picabia went on to combine the Cubist style with Orphic elements in such paintings as I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie (1913-14) and Edtaonisl (1913), to which he gave proto-Dadaist names. These early paintings are richly coloured assemblages of closely fitted, highly polished, metallic-looking shapes.

As Francis Picabia moved away from Cubism to Orphism, his colours and shapes became softer until, about 1916, he began to paint the machinelike contrivances that are his chief contribution to Dadaism. The drawing Universal Prostitution (1916-19) and the oil painting Amorous Procession (1917) are typical of his Dadaist phase. In 1915 in New York City, Picabia, Duchamp, and Man Ray together founded an American Dadaist movement. There Picabia exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz' gallery "291" and contributed to the proto-Dadaist review 291.Francis Picabia first visited New York City in 1913, when his works appeared in the Armory Show, an art exhibit that was pivotal in introducing European styles of modern art to America. Francis Picabia's entries included the cubist Dances at the Spring (1912, Philadelphia Museum of Art). After returning to Paris, Picabia painted some of his most acclaimed works.

In 1917 Francis Picabia returned to Europe and joined Dadaist movements in Barcelona, Paris,and Zurich. After Dadaism broke up about 1921, he followed the poet Andre Breton into the Surrealist movement. He subsequently painted in Surrealist, abstract, and figurativestyles. Picabia was notable for his inventiveness, adaptability, absurdist humour, and disconcerting changes of style.

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