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Francis Picabia (French, 1879-1953)


Also known as:  Picabia, François; Picabia, Francis Marie Martínez

Birth Place: Paris (Ville de Paris department, île-de-France, France)

Francis Picabia was born François Marie Martinez Picabia in Paris, 1879. He began his artistic training at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs. He exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants of 1903, showing impressionist paintings, but he quickly adapted elements of Cubism, Fauvism, and other abstracted forms into his work. It was not until he met Guillaume Appolinaire and Marcel Duchamp that he began to visit New York, immersing himself in the avant-garde community of artists with whom he formed the New York Society of Dadaists. Alfred Stieglitz published an arts and literary magazine that Picabia and other Dadaists contributed to, entitled “291,” initially intending to direct attention to Stieglitz’s gallery of the same name, it became a work of art in itself, and consequently emblematic of the Dada movement. In 1917, Picabia published his own periodical “391” in which he presented his first “Mechanical Drawings.”

As one of the leading figures in the Dada movement (sometimes declared as “Papa Dada”), Picabia’s work was continually innovative and richly diverse. Due to his complete disregard for the conventions of modern art, his work explored several creative elements that influenced radical ideas later in the art world, such as his text-based paintings that suggested facets of Conceptual Art. Along with his fellow comrade Marcel Duchamp, they played with the definition (or lack thereof) of art, using a cynical mode of thought to produce an ironically light-hearted attitude towards art-making. Some of Picabia’s most well-known works include his Transparency series in the 1920s and his erotic nudes in the 1940s, influencing contemporary artists such as David Salle and John Currin.

He became close friends with Gertrude Stein during the 1930s, and when he returned to Paris at the end of World War II, he resumed his abstract paintings and writing poetry. Picabia’s work is included in several institutions and collections all over the world, and his spirit remains influential in the continually evolving art world. He passed away in 1953 in Paris.

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