Francis Picabia

French painter, born in Paris (his father was Cuban), and trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and under Pissarro.

He worked successfully as an impressionist but was then involved in cubism, associating particularly with Duchamp and becoming a founding member of Section d ‘Or in 1911.

By 1909, he was painting abstract color compositions, and in 1912, he was seen as one of the orphists, proposing a new form of lyrical painting with musical associations.

In 1913, he spent time in the USA (where his work was included in the Armory Show), and with Duchamp stimulated the development of a New York dada group.

At this time, he began to make satirical mechanistic images; he continued with these during the war, which he spent principally in Barcelona, publishing a dada review, and making contact with the dadaists of Zurich.

With some of these he promoted dada activities in Paris from 1918 on, and subsequently he joined the surrealists.

In 1925, he designed the ballet Relache (music by Satie), and in 1926 worked with Rene Clair on the film Entre’Acte.

His painting had meanwhile returned to figuration but made use of many materials and styles, developing tastes for parody and paraphrase which have caused him to be seen as a pioneer of the self-conscious stylistic manoeuvres associated with postmodernism.

Financial independence perhaps made it possible for him to work with a degree of freedom and self-mockery unusual among artists.

His reputation declined in the 40s and 50s, but a retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, in 1975, drew renewed attention to the radicalism of his ideas and made them available in a substantial catalogue.

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