Francis Picabia was born François Marie Martinez Picabia on 22 January 1879, in Paris. In his youth, he studied at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, developing an Impressionist style that he exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants of 1903. Picabia had his first solo show at the Galerie Haussmann, Paris, in 1905. Over the following years, Picabia explored elements of Fauvism, Neo-Impressionism and Cubism, devising a highly personal synthesis of Cubism and Fauvism by 1912. Around this time, Picabia became a friend of Guillaume Apollinaire and Marcel Duchamp. In 1913, Picabia exhibited at the Armory Show in New York, and had a solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s Gallery ‘291’ later that year.
In 1915, Picabia began to develop a mechanomorphic abstract style, whilst simultaneously instigating and participating in Dada activities alongside Duchamp and others in New York. In 1917, Picabia published his first volume of poetry and founded the magazine 391, modelled on Steiglitz’s periodical 291. Picabia remained involved with the Dadaists in Zurich and Paris until 1921, when he denounced Dada for no longer being ‘new’. In 1922, Picabia returned to figurative art, turning towards bright colours, decorative motifs and collage in his series of Collages and Monsters. In 1924, he criticised André Breton and the Surrealists in 391, and moved to Mougins the following year. Towards the end of the 1920s, Picabia began exploring superimposition of imagery, resulting in his celebrated series of Transparencies.
In 1933, Picabia reconnected with Gertrude Stein, who would become a close friend. His style became more simplified, playing with the codes of antiquity and religious iconography. During the Second World War, he remained in the French Riviera, working on a series of paintings that used photographs from pin-up magazines as source material. He returned to Paris in 1945 and resumed painting in an abstract style alongside writing poetry. In 1949, a large retrospective of his work was held at Galerie René Drouin in Paris. Picabia died on 30 November 1953, in Paris.
Picabia’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM), Turin; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Collection, London.
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