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Francis Picabia
French (1878-1953)

Francis Picabia was born in Paris on 22 January 1879 to a French mother and Spanish father. He is most commonly recognised as an early pioneer of the Dada movement. Throughout his seventy-four years, he explored most of the artistic movements of his time, an exceptional feat during such an exciting period in art.

He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the École des Arts Decoratifs in Paris alongside Georges Braque. Vincent Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec had only recently graduated when Picabia joined in the late 1890’s.

Picabia’s first great success came from works painted in an Impressionist manner. In the early 1900’s the young Picabia painted Impressionist landscapes at Moret-sur-Loing, the picturesque historic town on the river Loing frequently depicted by Monet, Renoir and Sisley. Highly influenced by these artists, and Sisley in particular, Picabia completed series of works depicting the same site under different conditions of weather, seasons and at different times of the day. He mastered an Impressionist technique and exhibited his works regularly at the Salon des Artistes Français, and the Salon des Indépendants (founded in 1884 by a group that included Cezanne, Gauguin, and Pissarro) and the Salon d’Automne.

Great success came in 1904, when Picabia landed his first one-man exhibition at the prestigious Galerie Haussmann. His paintings were met with great acclaim with critics stating that Picabia’s Impressionist work was personal and unique, far from being derivative of the work of the Impressionist masters. Picabia went on to hold a second successful with the Galerie Haussmann in 1907, but in 1908 his style changed to focus on Neo-Impressionism, influenced by Signac, and he abandoned his Impressionist tendencies.

Francis Picabia viewed his art as an intimate extension of his life. It was a means to express his likes and dislikes, his thoughts and feelings—often without distinguishing between those that were serious or trivial, public or private. That attitude made for enormous variety in the styles and quality of his work, and he insisted on such freedom of expression even when it meant that most of the public might not like or understand what he was doing.

Picabia’s work is held in the Permanent collections of the following museums: The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

Throughout his seventy-four years, he explored most of the artistic movements of his time, an exceptional feat during such an exciting period in art.

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