The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Even among the most anarchist of the avant-garde, Francis Picabia (1879-1953),
Paris-born of Cuban and Spanish parentage, was the enfant terrible of the
international art world of the early years of the 20th century. His background
and character possessed an explosive mix of elements. Talented, precocious
(he had won a prize at the Paris Salon when he was only 15 years old), the
child of doting parents, he was also restless, agitated often, distracted.
Independently wealthy, he seemed to pursue willy-nilly whatever came to his
attention. Except for an early, relatively stable period of about 10 years
in early adulthood when he was a credible and financially successful Impressionist
working in the manner of Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro, he pursued, embraced—and
discarded—art styles seemingly as often as he changed his shirt. "If
you want to have clean ideas, change them as often as you change your shirts,"
he wrote. It was best, in fact, to have no convictions. "A conviction," he
wrote, "is a disease." (Cited by: Ashton Dore. In: Twentieth-Century
Artists on Art. New York, NY: Pantheon Books; 1985.) Thus, in rapid
order he became a Cubist, a Fauvist, an Orphic, a Futurist, a Dadaist, and
a Surrealist, to mention only the styles that have names. Nevertheless, two
lasting influences from his early years can be identified. The first was his
meeting with Marcel Duchamp in 1911 and the second his meeting in New York
City in 1913 with Alfred Stieglitz and his 291 group.
He would, in fact, later put out his own publication, calling it 391 in homage to Stieglitz.
Southgate MT. Edtaonisl (Clergyman). JAMA. 2000;283(12):1531. doi:10.1001/jama.283.12.1531
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