Francis Picabia

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Francis Picabia was a notable and influential French painter, designer, writer, illustrator and editor, whose work has been classified as some of the prime examples of Cubism. This extraordinary talented and creative man is also known for his involvement with the movements of Dada and Surrealist art.

Francis Picabia was born on January 22, 1879, in Paris, France. His father was Spanish while his mother was of French heritage. In 1894, Francis began his education at the Ecole des Art Decoratifs, and graduated in 1897.

He began his career under the influence of the Impressionist style, and for the next six years he went on to paint several remarkable canvases in an impressionist mode. However, his fondness for Impressionism came to an end when he came under the influence of the renowned painter, Camille Pissarro and the School of Barbizon. In 1905, he showcased sixty-one landscapes at his first solo exhibition, which was held in the Galerie Haussmann, Paris.

In 1909, Francis began to exhibit an advancement towards adopting the Cubist style. In 1911, he collaborated with Marcel Duchamp, and established a group of Cubist artists, Section d’Or. With contemplative and admirable works like ‘I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie’ and ‘Edtaonisl’, he presented a beautiful and unique blend of the Cubist style and Orphism. The years that followed showed Francis using softer, lighter hues and forms, and this marked his drift from the Cubist style to the lyrical approach of Orphism.

1913 onwards, Francis began visiting New York more and more, where he began frequenting the social circles of artists such as Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz. He also began producing some iconic illustrations, which can be seen in works like, ‘Poémes et dessins de la fille née sans mère’. He developed a fondness for drawing machinery, and increasingly, his paintings developed an ironic tone. In New York, he collaborated with Marcel Duchamp and May Ray in developing the American version of the nihilistic art movement of Dada. With works like ‘Amorous Procession’ and ‘Universal Prostitution’, Francis is accredited for contributing some of the pioneer and most influential examples of the Dadaist style.

In 1916, Francis decided to move Barcelona, where he began publishing his sardonic and satirical Dadaist magazine, 391, while also contributing to the journal, ‘Zurich DADA’, run by Tristan Tzara. In 1918, he became a member of the Swiss Dada group, and in 1919, after returning to Paris he became one of the most influential Dada artists in Zurich and Paris.

In 1921, he surprised the art world by completely discarding the movement of Dadaism despite being one of its most aggressive and devoted followers, instead, he began inclining towards Surrealism, and in 1926, he officially adopted the Surrealist style. By this time he had grown weary and tired of Parisian life and craved the peace and tranquility of the southern region of France. Hence, Francis settled in Mougins, and began to make aggressively bold and exuberant canvas which became popular as the “monster paintings”.

Towards his last days, Francis suffered a great deal of physical pain due to the ailment of arteriosclerosis, and his hands were unable to hold brush to the canvas. Heartbroken and desolate to have lost the ability to do what he loved doing the most, Francis Picabia passed away on 30th November, 1953.

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