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Picabia descended through the paternal route of a family arriving to Cuba from Galicia; his mother was a French Basque. Picabia’s parents met in Paris when his father worked as a diplomat in France.
He worked in almost all the most prominent contemporary styles, such as Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Fovism, Dadaism, Surrealism and Abstract Art. He also made figurative painting, drawing and collage. He studied at École des Beaux-Arts and at the School of Decorative Arts in Paris. He received a strong impressionistic and fovista influence, especially from the work of Pissarro and Sisley.
From 1909 to 1911 he was linked to Cubism and was a member of the Puteaux group, where he met the Duchamp brothers (Marcel, Jacques and Raymond) in the Parisian suburb of Puteaux, where they met on Sundays to discuss art, mathematics and other topics. In 1913 he traveled to New York, on the occasion of the exhibition “The International Exhibition of Modern Art”, held in a military barracks, and from where it was intended to make known to the American public the work of the European avant-garde, already minimally introduced by the photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz and the American Dada group. Picabia lived in New York until 1916, when she traveled to Barcelona, where she spent two years.
In Barcelona he barely maintained contact with the Catalan avant-garde, except with Josep Maria Tamburini, who in 1916 edited the first issue of his Dadaist magazine “391”.
The format, conception and typography owe much to the magazine 291, edited by Alfred Stieglitz and in which Picabia collaborated, but the assumptions are different: the nihilistic, cold, ironic and destructive tone are properly Dadaist. The magazine was published between 1917 and 1924, in Barcelona, New York, Zurich and Paris, and in it they collaborated, among others, Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, Tristan Tzara, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau. Along with Dada magazine, it was the most important of this movement.
Shortly after 1917, Picabia traveled to Paris, where he entered fully into the Dadaist circle led by Tristan Tzara, participating in demonstrations and other scandals.
In 1922 Dalmau organized an exhibition that brought together 46 works by Picabia, with a catalog edited by André Breton. Works prior to 1922 could be described as mechanomorphic, which owes a lot to futuristic dynamism. “El apuro” (1914, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid) belongs to a set of works made by the artist in 1914, which could be defined as abstract transpositions of intimate experiences.
Around 1924 seems to return to figuration, especially from the founding of the surrealist group: in these works seems to mock this surreal onirism, painting dematerialized figures, and later initiate a dialogue with the artistic tradition. His interest in literature and language was particularly evident in his later work.
In 1930 the first of the great retrospectives on Picabia was held at the French gallery Rosenberg, where the work between 1900 and 1930 was shown.
- 2015 Pandemonio (Editorial Malpaso, 2015, ISBN 978-84-15996-91-0)
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