Purple Magazine
— S/S 2010 issue 13

Francis Picabia

 

In November of 1922, Francis Picabia and André Breton drove with their wives from Paris to Barcelona for Picabia’s exhibition at the Dalmau Gallery. Breton wrote the catalogue of the show and before its opening he delivered his historic lecture on modern art. He spoke about the Dada movement, which began in Zurich in 1916, and in which both he and Picabia were major players. The show was a flop, both financially and critically, and it marked the beginning of a difficult period for Picabia, the playboy, humorist, and artist of incessant output and diverse styles, now considered an avatar of postmodernist pop art. This period came to be known as “L’Epoque floue” — the “Hazy Epoque” that marked both the dissolution of the Dada movement and the formulation of Surrealism.

In the early 1920s the covers of a number of issues of Littérature, a critical review under Breton’s directorship, featured drawings by Picabia. These drawings were based on a distortion (détournement) of advertising images and they bore a striking resemblance to the improvisational and surrealist “automatic drawings.” On August 8, 1923, about six months after the close of Picabia’s show in Barcelona, Breton received an envelope from Picabia containing drawings, several of which Picabia made expressly for the cover of Littérature. For decades that envelope lay all but forgotten in André Breton’s archives.

Recently, these Picabia drawings were brought to light by Breton’s daughter, Aube Breton-Elléouet, and his granddaughter, Oona Elléouet. The drawings have now been offered for sale as a set, with the stipulation that they be sold to a French museum and the proceeds be donated to the Nouvelles Recherches Biomédicales, the institution created by Claude Jasmin in 1987, for its cancer research. The rediscovered drawings are represented by Marcel and David Fleiss of the Galerie 1900-2000, Paris.

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S/S 2010 issue 13

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