Francis Picabia

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photo of Picabia in his house (Maison rose) in Tremblay-sur-Mauldre

Francis Picabia (born Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia, 22 January 1879 – 30 November 1953) was a French avant-garde painter, poet and typographic artist. After experimenting with Impressionism and w:Pointillism, Picabia became associated with Cubism. His highly abstract planar compositions were colourful and rich in contrasts. He was one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France. He was later briefly associated with Surrealism, but would soon turn his back on the art establishment.

Quotes of Francis Picabia[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes of Francis Picabia
Picabia, 1909: Caoutchouc, oil on canvas
Picabia, 1915: Abstract portrait of Agnes Meyer as sparkplug, drawing on paper
Picabia, 1915: Portrait d'une Jeune Fille Américaine dans 'l'État de Nudité', and 'J'ai Vu' , drawings on paper
Picabia, 1920: M.U.E.E.J. Dada, (André Breton at a Dada festival in Paris is bearing a sign designed by Francis Picabia)
Picabia, 1920: Nature Morte, toy, monkey, and, ink, on cardboard (illustration in the Dada-journal 'Cannibale', no. 1.
Picabia, 1920: Jésus-Christ rastaquouère, taken from p. 65, crop
Picabia, Nov. 1924: Prologue de Relache ('Canceled'), with Eric Satie, Francis Picabia, Rene Clair & Jean Biorlin
Picabia, 1926: Jeune fille, India ink drawing on cardboard
Picabia, 1929: Transparence - Sphinx

1910's[edit]

  • ..giving plastic reality to inner states of the mind.
  • The aim of art is to get us to dream, just like music, for it expresses a mood projected onto the canvas, which arouses identical sensations in the viewer.
    • two short quotes of Picabia, in 'A Paris painter', by Hapgood, published in 'The Globe and Commercial Advertiser', 20 Febr. 1913, p. 8
  • I do not consider myself a Cubist either because I have come to the conclusion that cubes are not always made for expressing the thought of the brain and of the feeling of the spirit.. .I capture all these impressions [the visual sensations, Picabia sensed in the modern city] without any hurry to transfer to the canvas. I let them rest in my brain and then, when I'm visited by the spirit of creation, I improvise my paintings just as a musician improvises his music.
    • In: 'How I see New York', in 'The New York American', New York 30 March 1913, p. 11
  • This visit to America.. ..has brought about a complete revolution in my methods of work.. ..prior to leaving Europe I was engrossed in presenting psychological studies through the medium-ship of forms which I created. Almost immediately upon coming to America it flashed on me that the genius of the modern world is in machinery and that through machinery art ought to find a most vivid expression.
    • in the interview 'French Artists Spur on an American Art', in 'New York Tribune', Sunday 24 October 1915; as quoted by William A. Camfield, in Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton 1979, p. 77
  • Naturally, form has come to take precedence over color with me, though when I began painting color predominated. Slowly artistic evolution carried from color to form and while I still employ color, of course, it is the drawing which assumes the place of first importance in my pictures.
    • Quote of Picabia, in an interview in an American newspaper, 1915; as quoted by William A. Camfield, in Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, p.77
    • Picabia emphasised that line took precedence over colour in his works since 1915
  • 'Udnie – I see Again in Memory my Dear Udnie' is no more the portrait of a young girl than 'Edtaonisl' (counterpart of his work 'Udnie'] is the image of a prelate, as we ordinarily conceive of them. They are [both] memories of America, evocations of over there which, subtly set down like musical chords, become representative of an idea, a nostalgia, a fleeting impression.
    • In: 'Ecrits: vol. 1', 1913 - 1920, Picabia, Belfond, Paris, p. 26
    • 'Udnie – I see Again in Memory my Dear Udnie' is the title of a painting, he made in 1913; a memory of the dances performed by Stasia Napierkowska on the ship to New York, to visit the w:Armory Show, where Picabia was presented in 1913 as a 'leading Cubist painter'
  • Perhaps we'll be able to do beautiful things, since I have a stellar, insane desire to assassinate beauty.
    • Quote in Picabia's letter to Tristan Tzara, Summer 1919; as cited in TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara, Marius Hentea, MIT Press, 12 Sep 2014, p. 151
  • Splendid, it has done me enormous good to finally see and read something in Switzerland that isn't bullshit. All of it is very nice, it is really something; your manifesto expresses every philosophy seeking truth, when there is no truth, only convention.
    • In a letter to Tristan Tzara, Nov. 1919, (after having received a copy of 'Manifesto Dada 3.', written by Tzara); as quoted in: TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara, Marius Hentea, MIT Press, 12 Sep 2014, p. 115

1920's[edit]

  • The Cubists want to cover Dada with snow; that may surprise you, but it is so, they want to empty the snow from their pipe to bury DaDa.
    Are you sure?
    Positively sure, the facts are revealed by grotesque mouths. They think that Dada can prevent them from practicing this odious trade: Selling art expensively.
    Art costs more than sausages, more than women, more than everything.
    Art is visible like God (see Saint-Sulpice).
    Art is a pharmaceutical product for imbeciles.
    The table turns thanks to spirit; the paintings and other works of arts are like strong-box tables, the spirit is inside and becomes more and more
    inspired according to the auction prices.
    Farce, farce, farce, farce, farce, my dear friends.
    • In 'DADA manifesto 1920'; as quoted in Manifesto: A Century of Isms, ed. Mary Ann Caws, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001, nr. 9.16 Francis Picabia, p 318
  • FRANCIS PICABIA
    is an imbecile, an idiot, a pickpocket!!!
    1921
    BUT
    He saved Arp from constipation!
    The first mechanical work was created
    by madam Tzara the Day she put
    little Tristan into the world, however she
    didn't know it
    funny girl
    Francis Picabia
    is an imbecilic Spanish professor
    who has never been dada
    FRANCIS PICABIA IS NOTHING
    FRANCIS PICABIS likes the morality of idiots
    Arp's binocle is Tristan’s testicle
    FRANCIS PICABIS IS NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!
    But Arp was Dada before Dada.
    • Quote of Picabia in his 'Manifesto, 1921'; as cited in Manifesto: A Century of Isms, ed. Mary Ann Caws, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001, p 319
  • So Picabia has invented nothing, he just copies. But of course, Picabia copies an engineer's sketch instead of copying apples. Copying apples is something everybody understands, copying a turbine is stupid
    • in 'L'oeil cacodylate', Comoedia, 23 November 1921, p. 2
    • Picabia was reacting on anonymous journalist who commented that Picabia had based his composition on a diagram of an air-brake turbine, reproduced in the journal 'La Science et la Vie'
  • It is not a recognisable scene [his two paintings 'Dances at the spring', 1912 - Picabia painted the motion and the excitement of a peasant dance while he was on his honeymoon in the countryside of Italy; one version is lost]. There is no dancer, no spring, no light, no perspective, nothing other than the visible clue of the sentiments I am trying to express.. .I would draw your attention to a song of colours, which will bring out for others the joyful sensations and feelings inspired in me on those summer days when I found myself somewhere in the country near the Italian border, where there was a spring in a wonderful garden. A photograph of that spring and that garden would in now way look like my painting 'Dance at a spring' I was shown for the first time at the w:Salon d'Automne in Paris in 1912.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 200

Quotes about Francis Picabia[edit]

  • We are living in the age of the machine. Man made the machine in his own image. She has limbs which act; lungs which breathe; a heart which beats; a nervous system through which runs electricity. The phonograph is the image of his voice; the camera the image of his eye. The machine is his [Picabia's] 'daughter born without a mother'. That is why he loves her. He has made the machine superior to himself. That is why he admires her.
  • We [ Tristan Tzara and Jean Arp ] found him [Picabia in 1919, in his hotel in Zürich] busy dissecting an alarm-clock.. .Ruthlessly he slashed away at his alarm-clock down to the spring, which he pulled out triumphantly.. ..and soon impressed the wheels, the spring, the hands and other secret parts of the clock on pieces of paper. He tied these impressions together with lines and accompanied the drawing with comments of a rare wit far removed from the world of mechanical stupidity. He was creating antimechanical machines.. ..machines of the unconsciousness..
    • Quote of Jean Arp (1919), in 'Chronique Zurichoise', 1915 – 1919, O.C. 1:562; as cited in TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara, Marius Hentea, MIT Press, 12 Sep 2014, p. 115
  • For thirty days and thirty nights he remained in a lamentable state.. ..the doctor.. ..to relieve the pain prescribed granulated aconitine, a drug with which it is difficult to get the dosage right and possessing effects that vary according to the patient’s temperament. The doctor warned us to pay great attention to whatever symptoms it might produce and Picabia, apprehensive as always, developed a superstitious fear of the little box, though at the same time attracted by the relief it gave him.
    • Quote of Germaine Everling, early 1920's; as quoted by Maria Lluisa Borras (ed.), in Picabia, Ronny Van De Velde, Antwerpen, 1993, p. 206
    • In March 1921 Picabia developed a painful eye disease and had withdrawn from public gatherings in a depressed state. His partner Germaine Everling described his mental and physical anguish
  • One does something for six months, a year, and one goes on to something else. That's what Picabia did all his life.
    • Quote of Marcel Duchamp, as cited in TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara, Marius Hentea, MIT Press, 12 Sep 2014, p. 121
  • Picabia, who at first extracted a profuse plastic inspiration from machines, adopts thereafter [after World War 1.] aspects which are directly photographic; but emptied of their utilitarian signification, Picabia charges them with a new reality, of which he alone is the arbiter, creating an atmosphere of migration which surrealism systematised.
    • Quote of Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia, in 'Matières Plastiques', XXe Siècle, Vol.2, 1938, pp.31–5[1]
    • Picabia's first wife was here commenting on his use of machines in his paintings after c. 1918
  • Picabia felt.. ..that the machine had accomplished its conquest of man.. ..that his diagrams had ceased to inflame the anger of the bourgeois.. ..The Eiffel Tower whose unaesthetic carcass had offered material for so many controversies.. ..was now part of the Parisian landscape. This is why new elements appeared in the painter's work from 1919: collage, the use of solid objects, materials reputed to be non-artistic, like [the use of] Ripolin paint.
    • Quote by Michel Sanouillet, in Picabia; publisher: Les Editions du Temps, Paris, 1964, p. 36
    • Michel Sanouillet described how Picabia felt the need to innovate and introduce new materials into his work
  • These two pieces ['The Cacodylic Eye' and 'Hot Eyes'] gave rise to more talk than all the other works in the Salon [in Paris, 1921] put together. Here was a fresh paradox: as Francis Picabia's position became more and more definitely independent of the [[w:Dada|Dada group, his personality continued to be more undeniably and obviously the most radically Dadaist of them all.

External links[edit]

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  • https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/28/picabia-fig-leaf