Francis Picabia, La Source (The Spring), 1912
98 x 98 in.
Francis Picabia (1879-1953) was a major French avant-garde painter and poet. Born in Paris to a French mother and a Spanish-Cuban diplomat, Picabia honed his artistic skill to finance his stamp collection; when he was fifteen he would create flawless copies to replace his father's Spanish paintings and then sell the originals without his father's knowledge. He then studied at the École des Arts Decoratifs after being taken into the studio of leading history painter Fernand Cormon. Picabia's early work is heavily influenced by Impressionism, but people began to criticize his work for lack of originality. He began incorporating Cubist elements into his work and soon became close friends with Marcel Duchamp and Guillaume Apollinaire. Duchamp's influence can be immediately seen in Picabia's paintings. We can also see the influence of Futurism and the extremes to which Picabia took his abstraction. Picabia soon became a major pioneer of Dada, creating the Dadaist magazine 391. Picabia's work continued to develop and he became a highly original and powerful artist. He explored many genres and styles throughout his long career. La Source (The Spring) is an extremely complex Cubist piece, demonstrating Picabia's skill in composition and controlled technique. The limited palette gives the work a great deal of power and resonance, as the shapes and shades splinter and mirror each other so that the spatial relations of the painting become quite unclear. Picabia offers the fracturing of Cubism with the delirium of Expressionism. Its depth, both spatial and emotional, is elaborate and intricate, making it easy to become lost in these shapes black, red, and grey.