Monday, October 21, 2013

Picabia, Francis

Comic Wedlock
oil on canvas
196.5 x 200 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Francis Picabia (1879 - 1953) was a French painter, illustrator, designer, writer, and editor, who was successively involved with the art movements Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism. He was the son of a Cuban diplomat father and a French mother.

During the seventy four intervening years, he explored most of the artistic movements of his time. After studying at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, he painted landscapes for nearly six years in the manner of Corot and the Impressionists, especially Sisley. In 1909 he adopted a Cubist style, and, along with Marcel Duchamp, he helped found in 1911 the Section d’Or, a group of Cubist artists. Picabia went on to combine the Cubist style with its more lyrical variation known as Orphism. In these early paintings he portrayed assemblages of closely fitted, metallic-looking abstract shapes. As Picabia moved away from Cubism to Orphism, his colors and shapes became softer.

In 1915 Picabia traveled to New York City, where he, Duchamp, and Man Ray began to develop what became known as an American version of Dada, a nihilistic art movement that flourished in Europe and New York from 1915 to about 1922.  About 1916 he gave up the Cubist style completely and began to produce the images of satiric, machine like contrivances that are his chief contribution to Dadaism.

In 1916 Picabia returned to Europe and settled in Barcelona. He subsequently joined Dadaist movements in Paris and Zurich. In 1921 he renounced Dada on the grounds that it was no longer vital and had lost its capacity to shock. In 1925 he left Paris to settle in the south of France, where he experimented with painting in various styles. He returned to live in Paris in 1945, and he spent the final years of his life painting in a mostly abstract mode. Picabia was notable for his inventiveness, adaptability, absurdist humor, and disconcerting changes of style.
Picabia died in Paris in 1953 and was interred in the Cimetiere de Montmartre.