Francis Picabia


Francis Picabia (: born Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia; 22January 1879 – 30November 1953) was a French
avant-garde The avant-garde (; In 'advance guard' or 'vanguard', literally 'fore-guard') are people or works that are experimental, Wikt:radical#Adjective, radical, or unorthodox with respect to The arts, art, culture, or society.John Picchione, The New Av ...
painter, poet and typographist. After experimenting with
Impressionism Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a specific period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades) or, ...

Pointillism Pointillism (, ) is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. Georges Seurat and Paul Signac developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism. The term "Pointillism" was ...
, Picabia became associated with
Cubism Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde The avant-garde (; In 'advance guard' or ' vanguard', literally 'fore-guard') are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society.John Picch ...
. His highly abstract planar compositions were colourful and rich in contrasts. He was one of the early major figures of the
Dada : left, ''Le saint des saints c'est de moi qu'il s'agit dans ce portrait'', 1 July 1915; center, ''Portrait d'une jeune fille americaine dans l'état de nudité'', 5 July 1915; right, ''J'ai vu et c'est de toi qu'il s'agit, De Zayas! De Zayas! Je ...

movement in the United States and in France. He was later briefly associated with
Surrealism Surrealism was a cultural movement A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") i ...

, but would soon turn his back on the art establishment.


Early life

Francis Picabia was born in Paris of a French mother and a Cuban father of Spanish descent. Some sources would have his father as of aristocratic Spanish descent, whereas others consider him of non-aristocratic Spanish descent, from the region of
Galicia Galicia may refer to: Geographic regions * Galicia (Spain), a region and autonomous community of northwestern Spain ** Gallaecia, a Roman province ** The post-Roman Kingdom of the Suebi, also called the Kingdom of Gallaecia ** The medieval Kingdom ...
. His birth year of 1879 coincided with the Spanish-Cuban Little War; and though Picabia was born in Paris, his father was involved in Cuban-French relations and would later serve as attaché at the Cuban legation in Paris (see the Treaty of 1898). The family ties to Cuba would be important in Picabia's life later on. The family was affluent, but not without tragedy. Picabia's mother died of
tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by ''Mycobacterium tuberculosis'' (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections show no symptoms, in which case ...

when he was seven and her mother died soon after. He was raised by his father. Picabia's artistic ability was apparent from his youth. In 1894, he copied a collection of Spanish paintings that belonged to his grandfather, switching the copies for the originals and selling the originals to finance his stamp collection.

Art career

During the late 1890s, Picabia began to study art under
Fernand Cormon Fernand Cormon (24 December 1845 – 20 March 1924) was a French painter born in Paris. He became a pupil of Alexandre Cabanel, Eugène Fromentin, and Jean-François Portaels, and one of the leading historical painters of modern France. Biograp ...

Fernand Cormon
and others at École des Arts Decoratifs, Cormon's academy at 104 boulevard de Clichy, where
Van Gogh '', 1890. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, alt= An expansive painting of a wheatfield, with a footpath going through the centre underneath dark and forbidding skies, through which a flock of black crows fly. Vincent Willem van Gogh (; 30 March 1 ...
Toulouse-Lautrec Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (24 November 1864 – 9 September 1901) was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman, caricaturist and illustrator whose immersion in the colorful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1 ...

had also studied. From the age of twenty Picabia lived by painting. Subsequently, he inherited money from his mother, making him financially independent. Early in his career, from 1903 to 1908, Picabia was influenced by the
Impressionist Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage o ...

paintings of
Alfred Sisley Alfred Sisley (; ; 30 October 1839 – 29 January 1899) was an Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life in France, but retained British citizenship. He was the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedicatio ...
. His subject matter included small churches, lanes, roofs of Paris, riverbanks, wash houses, and barges. This led critics to question his originality, saying that he copied Sisley, that his cathedrals looked like
Monet Oscar-Claude Monet (, , ; 14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a French painter and founder of Impressionism, impressionist painting who is seen as a key precursor to modernism, especially in his attempts to paint nature as he percei ...
cathedrals, or that he painted like Signac. From 1909, his style changed as he came under the influence of a group of artists soon to be called
Cubists Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of th ...
. These artists would later form the Golden Section (Section d'Or). The same year, Picabia married Gabrielle Buffet. File:Francis Picabia, 1913, Udnie (Young American Girl, The Dance), oil on canvas, 290 x 300 cm, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris..jpg, Francis Picabia, 1913, ''Udnie (Young American Girl, The Dance)'', oil on canvas, 290 x 300 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris Around 1911 Picabia joined the Puteaux Group, whose members he had met at the studio of Jacques Villon in Puteaux, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris. There he became friends with artist Marcel Duchamp and close friends with Guillaume Apollinaire. Other group members included Albert Gleizes, Roger de La Fresnaye, Fernand Léger and Jean Metzinger.


Picabia was the only member of the Cubist group to personally attend the Armory Show, and Alfred Stieglitz gave him a Solo show (art exhibition), solo show, ''Exhibition of New York studies by Francis Picabia'', at his 291 (Art Gallery), gallery 291 (formerly ''Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession''), 17 March – 5 April 1913. From 1913 to 1915 Picabia traveled to New York City several times and took an active part in the avant-garde movements, introducing Modern art to America. During that same era, France became embroiled in French entry into World War I, war. In 1915 Picabia again traveled to the United States en route to Cuba to buy molasses for a friend of his—the director of a sugar refinery. He landed in NewYork in June 1915. Though the stopover was ostensibly meant to be a simple port of call, he became intrigued with the city and his stay became prolonged. The 291 (magazine), magazine ''291'' devoted an entire issue to him, he met Man Ray, Gabrielle and Duchamp joined him, drugs and alcohol became a problem and his health declined. He suffered from Edema, dropsy and tachycardia. These years can be characterized as Picabia's dada, proto-Dada period, consisting mainly of his ''portraits mécaniques''.


Later, in 1916, while in Barcelona and within a small circle of refugee artists that included Albert Gleizes and his wife Juliette Roche, Marie Laurencin, Olga Sacharoff, Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay, he started his
Dada : left, ''Le saint des saints c'est de moi qu'il s'agit dans ce portrait'', 1 July 1915; center, ''Portrait d'une jeune fille americaine dans l'état de nudité'', 5 July 1915; right, ''J'ai vu et c'est de toi qu'il s'agit, De Zayas! De Zayas! Je ...

periodical ''391 (magazine), 391'' (published by Galeries Dalmau), modeled on Stieglitz's own periodical. He continued the periodical with the help of Marcel Duchamp in the United States. In Zurich, seeking treatment for depression and suicidal impulses, he had met Tristan Tzara, whose radical ideas thrilled Picabia. Back in Paris, and now with his mistress Germaine Everling, he was in the city of "les assises dada" where André Breton, Paul Éluard, Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon met at Certa, a Basque Country (autonomous community), Basque bar in the Passage de l'Opera. Picabia, the provocateur, was back home. Picabia continued his involvement in the Dada movement through 1919 in Zürich and Paris, before breaking away from it after developing an interest in Surrealism, Surrealist art. (See ''Cannibale'', 1921.) He denounced Dada in 1921, and issued a personal attack against Breton in the final issue of ''391'', in 1924. The same year, he put in an appearance in the René Clair surrealist film ''Entr'acte (film), Entr'acte'', firing a cannon from a rooftop. The film served as an intermission piece for Picabia's avant-garde ballet, ''Relâche (ballet), Relâche'', premiered at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, with music by Erik Satie.

Later years

In 1922, André Breton relaunched Littérature (magazine), ''Littérature'' magazine with cover images by Picabia, to whom he gave carte blanche for each issue. Picabia drew on religious imagery, erotic iconography, and the iconography of games of chance. In 1925, Picabia returned to figurative painting, and during the 1930s became a close friend of the modernist novelist Gertrude Stein. In the early 1940s he moved to the South of France, where his work took a surprising turn: he produced a series of paintings based on the nude glamour photos in French "girlie" magazines like ''Paris Sex-Appeal'', in a garish style which appears to subvert traditional, academic nude painting. Some of these went to an Algerian merchant who sold them, and so it passed that Picabia came to decorate brothels across North Africa under the Occupation. Before the end of World War II, he returned to Paris where he resumed abstract painting and writing poetry. A large retrospective of his work was held at the Galerie René Drouin in Paris in the spring of 1949. Francis Picabia died in Paris in 1953 and was interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.


Public collections holding works by Picabia include the Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Tate Gallery, London and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris. From 6 June through to 25 September 2016 at Kunsthaus Zürich and then from 21 November 2016 through 19 March 2017, the first retrospective of Picabia's work in the United States,
Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction
', took place at the Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, co-curated by Anne Umland and Cathérine Hug. The retrospective was widely discussed by international art critics such as Philippe Dagen from Le Monde. Among the artists influenced by Picabia's work are the American artists David Salle and Julian Schnabel, the German artist Sigmar Polke, and the Italian artist Francesco Clemente. in 1996, French artist Jean-Jacques Lebel initiated and co-curated the exhibition ''Picabia, Dalmau 1922'' (with reference to Picabia's solo exhibition at Galeries Dalmau in 1922) shown at Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou. In 2002, the artists Peter Fischli & David Weiss installed Suzanne Pagé's retrospective devoted to Picabia at the musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris (MAMVP). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organized
major retrospective
of his entire career, shown from 21 November 2016 to 19 March 2017.

Art market

In 2003, a Picabia painting once owned by André Breton sold for US$1.6million. On 16 November 2013, at Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York, Picabia's ''Volucelle II'' (, Ripolin on canvas, 198,5 x 249 cm) sold for US$8,789,000.Francis Picabia, ''Volucelle II'', c. 1922, Ripolin on canvas, 198,5 x 249 cm
US$8,789,000. Sotheby's, Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, New York, Wednesday, 6 November 2013


File:Francis Picabia.jpg, Francis Picabia in his studio File:Francis Picabia, 1911, Horses, oil on canvas, 73.3 x 92.5 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.jpg, ''Horses'', 1911, oil on canvas, 73.3 x 92.5 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Published in the New York Times, New York, 16 February 1913, Page 121
File:Francis Picabia, 1911-12, Paysage à Cassis (Landscape at Cassis), oil on canvas, 50.3 × 61.5 cm, private collection.jpg, ''Paysage à Cassis'' (''Landscape at Cassis''), 1911–12, oil on canvas, 50.3 × 61.5 cm, private collection File:Francis Picabia, 1912, Tarentelle, oil on canvas, 73.6 x 92.1 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.jpg, ''Tarentelle'', 1912, oil on canvas, 73.6 x 92.1 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Reproduced in ''Du "Cubisme"'' by Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger, published in 1912 File:Francis Picabia, 1912, The Procession, Seville, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 121.9 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.jpg, ''The Procession, Seville'', 1912, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 121.9 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. File:Francis Picabia, The Dance at the Spring, 1912, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art.jpg, ''The Dance at the Spring'', 1912, oil on canvas, 120.5 x 120.6 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show File:Francis Picabia, 1913, Edtaonisl (Ecclesiastic), oil on canvas, 300.4 x 300.7 cm, Art Institute of Chicago.jpg, ''Edtaonisl'' (''Ecclesiastic''), 1913, oil on canvas, 300.4 x 300.7 cm, Art Institute of Chicago File:Francis Picabia, 1913, Catch as Catch Can, oil on canvas, 100.6 x 81.6 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art.jpg, ''Catch as Catch Can'', 1913, oil on canvas, 100.6 x 81.6 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art File:Picabia starDancer.jpg, ''Star Dancer on a Transatlantic Steamer'', 1913 File:Francis Picabia, 1913-14, Force Comique, aquarelle et graphite sur papier, 63.4 x 52.7 cm, Berkshire Museum.jpg, ''Force Comique'', 1913–14, watercolor and graphite on paper, 63.4 x 52.7 cm, Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA File:Francis Picabia, Ici, c'est ici Stieglitz, foi et amour, cover of 291, No1, 1915.jpg, ''Ici, c'est ici Alfred Stieglitz, Stieglitz, foi et amour'', cover of 291 (magazine), 291, No1, 1915 File:Francis Picabia, 1915, Fille née sans mère (Girl Born Without a Mother), work on paper, 47.4 x 31.7 cm, Musée d'Orsay.jpg, ''Fille née sans mère'' (''Girl Born Without a Mother''), 1915, work on paper, 47.4 x 31.7 cm, Musée d'Orsay File:Francis Picabia, 1915, Voilà Haviland (la poésie est comme lui).jpg, ''Voilà Haviland'' (''La poésie est comme lui''), Portrait mécanomorphe de Paul Haviland, Paul B. Haviland, 1915, Musée d'Orsay File:Francis Picabia, 1916-17, Prostitution Universelle (Universal Prostitution), black ink, tempera, metallic paint on cardboard, 74.5 x 94.2 cm, Yale University Art Gallery.tif, ''Prostitution Universelle'' (''Universal Prostitution''), 1916–17, black ink, tempera, metallic paint on cardboard, 74.5 x 94.2 cm, Yale University Art Gallery File:Francis Picabia, 1919, Réveil Matin (Alarm Clock), ink on paper, 31.8 x 23 cm, Tate, London.jpg, ''Réveil Matin'' (''Alarm Clock''), 1919, ink on paper, 31.8 x 23 cm, Tate, London File:Francis Picabia, Dada Movement, Dada, Number 5, 15 May 1919.jpg, ''Dada Movement'', Dada, Number 5, 15 May 1919 File:Francis Picabia, 1920, Portrait of Cézanne, Portrait of Renoir, Portrait of Rembrandt.jpg, ''Portrait of Cézanne, Portrait of Renoir, Portrait of Rembrandt'', 1920, Toy monkey and oil on cardboard, 39.4 x 55 cm, Reproduced in Cannibale, Paris, n. 1, April 25, 1920 File:Francis Picabia, 1920, La Sainte Vierge (The Blessed Virgin), ink and graphite on paper, 33 x 24 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris.jpg, ''La Sainte Vierge'' (''The Blessed Virgin''), 1920, ink and graphite on paper, 33 x 24 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris File:Francis Picabia, 1921, L'oeil cacodylate, oil and collage on canvas, 148.6 x 117.4 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne.jpg, Francis Picabia, 1921, ''L'oeil cacodylate'', oil and collage on canvas, 148.6 x 117.4cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris File:Francis Picabia, c. 1921-22, Optophone I, encre, aquarelle et mine de plomb sur papier, 72 x 60 cm.jpg, ''Optophone I'', c. 1921–22, ink, acrylic, and graphite on paper, 72 x 60 cm. Reproduced in Galeries Dalmau, ''Picabia'', exhibition catalogue, Barcelona, Nov. 18 - Dec. 8, 1922 File:Picabia,_Espagnole_et_agneau_de_l'apocalypse.jpeg, ''Espagnole et agneau de l'apocalypse'', c. 1927–28, gouache, watercolour and brush and ink on paper, 65 × 50 cm, private collection File:Picabia Hera 2.JPG, ''Hera'', c. 1929, oil on cardboard, 105 × 75 cm, private collection File:Francis Picabia - Transparence.jpg, ''Transparence - Sphinx'', 1929, oil on canvas, 131 × 163 cm, Centre Georges Pompidou

See also

* Dadaglobe * Anti-art


* Allan, Kenneth R. “Metamorphosis in ''391'': A Cryptographic Collaboration by Francis Picabia, Man Ray, and Erik Satie.” ''Art History'' 34, No. 1 (February, 2011): 102–125. * Baker, George. ''The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris''. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007. () * Borràs, Maria Lluïsa. ''Picabia''. Trans. Kenneth Lyons. New York: Rizzoli, 1985. * Calté, Beverly and Arnauld Pierre. ''Francis Picabia.'' Tokyo: APT International, 1999. * Camfield, William. ''Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times''. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979. * Hopkins, David. “Questioning Dada’s Potency: Picabia’s ‘La Sainte Vierge’ and the Dialogue with Duchamp.” ''Art History'' 15, No. 3 (September 1992): 317–333. * Legge, Elizabeth. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Virgin: Francis Picabia’s La Sainte Vierge.” ''Word & Image'' 12, No. 2 (April–June 1996): 218–242. * Page, Suzanne, William Camfield, Annie Le Brun, Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais, ''et al.'', ''Francis Picabia: Singulier ideal''. Paris: Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2002. * Picabia, Francis. ''I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry Prose, and Provocation.'' Trans. Marc Lowenthal, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007. () * Pierre, Arnauld. ''Francis Picabia: La peinture sans aura.'' Paris: Gallimard, 2002. * Wilson, Sarah. "Francis Picabia: Accommodations of Desire – Transparencies 1924–1932." New York: Kent Fine Art, 1989. ()
Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of antiart to be later embraced for anarcho-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism.
—Marc Lowenthal, translator's introduction to Francis Picabia's ''I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, And Provocation''


External links

Picabia's Cats

Comité Picabia
the organization developing a catalogue raisonné of the artist

* Scans of Picabia's publication

After ''391'': Picabia's early multimedia experiments
Short essay
in the MoMA Online Collection
Francis Picabia. Machines and Spanish Women
Exhibition at Fundació Antoni Tàpies

''New York Times''
detailed biography notes of Picabia and his connection with Dada

''Francis Picabia: Materials and Techniques''
publication of the MoMA {{DEFAULTSORT:Picabia, Francis 1879 births 1953 deaths 19th-century French painters 20th-century French painters 20th-century male artists Abstract painters Alumni of the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs Burials at Montmartre Cemetery Collage artists Cubist artists Dada French male painters French people of Cuban descent French people of Spanish descent Modern painters Orphism (art) French dadaist French abstract artists