Francis Picabia

Born 1879 and died 1953 in Paris. Painter, drawer and poet, of Spanish descent. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the Ecole des Arts décoratifs of Paris. Up to 1908 he painted impressionist pictures in the manner of Sisley.

In 1909 he came under the influence of the Cubists. Between 1911 and 1912 he took part in the Sunday meetings at Jacques Villon’s studio at the village of Puteaux, together with Apollinaire, Gleizes, La Fresnaye, Léger, Metzinger, among others, which led to the foundation of the “Golden Section.” He exibited at Metzinger’s show. Was a close friend of Apollinaire.

In February, 1913, he went to the United States for the first time and exhibited at the “Armory Show”. Stieglitz arranged an exhibition of his water-colours at his gallery. In 1914 he was mobilized in France. In 1915 he went to the United States for the second time and collaborated with Marcel Duchamp. The periodical “291” of the Stieglitz group published proto-Dada-works by Picabia, Catherine Rhoades and others.

Towards the end of 1916 he turned up in Barcelona, where he met Cravan, Gleizes and Marie Laurencin. On January 25th, 1917, he published the first number of his periodical, which he named “391” to recall the Stieglitz group’s “291”. In it he published his first Mechanical Drawings. In the same year he went to America once more and there published further numbers of 391, assisted by Duchamp.

In 1918 he made his appearance at Lausanne, where he published a book entitled Poèmes et dessins de la fille née sans mère (Poems and drawings of the girl born without a mother). In February he connected with the Zürich Dada group and contributed to “Dada” Issue number 3. In 1919 he published issue number 8 of 391 in Zürich, then returned to Paris, where he continued to published 391 while taking part in Dada demonstrations.

In 1920 he published a periodical, “Cannibale”, and in 1921, together with André Breton and others, he dissociated himself from “orthodox” Dadaists. Later he contributed to the periodicals and exhibitions of the surrealists.

In 1949 a big retrospective exhibition was organized at the Drouin Gallery, Paris. The catalogue for the exhibition, titled “491”, came out in the size of a newspaper. It contained articles by Bott, Breton, Cocteau, Desnos, Seuphor, Tapié and others.

See also:

After 391: Picabia’s Early Multimedia Experiments – short essay by Chris Joseph (2008)
Thank You, Francis! – remixed manifesto by Picabia/SDR (2006)
391-32: twentythree – no issues of 391 were published in 1923. twentythree is a playful speculation of what Picabia may have been doing in his time away (2003)
Manifeste Cannibale Dada by Picabia (1920)
Dada Manifesto by Picabia (1920)

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