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What I like is to invent, to imagine, to make myself at every moment a new man, and then, to forget him, forget everything.

—— Francis Picabia

Francis Picabia ( 1879 – 1953) was a French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist. After experimenting with Impressionism and Pointillism, Picabia became associated with Cubism. His highly abstract planar compositions were colourful and rich in contrasts. He was one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France. He was later briefly associated with Surrealism, but would soon turn his back on the art establishment. Born in Paris, France to Cuban-Spanish father and a French mother, Picabia was raised in an affluent setting. Picabia went on to attend the École des Arts Decoratifs alongside notable classmates Marie Laurencin and Georges Braque. During his early career, Francis Picabia painted in the Impressionist style and exhibited at the Paris salons. And from 1908 onwards, Picabia employed a number of styles, including Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism.  He participated in the 1913 Armory Show, visiting New York on this occasion and frequenting Dada and Surrealism circles. Alfred Stieglitz gave him a solo exhibition at his gallery “291” that same year. With his technically precise Machine paintings of the late 1910’s, Picabia established himself in the avant-garde movements of both America and Europe. He later denounced both Dada and Surrealism, as he felt they were producing the same stale theories and derivative work as any previous movement. 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, his practice took a surprising turn as he began to paint nudes in the style of French glamour magazines. Before the end of World War II, he returned to Paris where he resumed abstract painting and writing poetry. Picabia died on November 30, 1953 in Paris, France. In 2017, the artist was the subject of comprehensive exhibition “Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction,” held at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Today, his works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery in London, and the Reina Sofia National Museum in Madrid, among others.


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Francis Picabia

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