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The Cover
March 22/29, 2000

Edtaonisl (Clergyman)

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2000;283(12):1531. doi:10.1001/jama.283.12.1531

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.