Francis Picabia (1879 – 1953) was one of the most exciting painters of the first half of the century and is an enduring influence on artists working today.
He adopted many different artistic styles throughout his career, including Cubism, Futurism and Dada, continually exploring the new visual language of modernism being developed at the time in industry, fashion and photography. Picabia believed in ‘painting for painting’s sake’ and wanted people to look at his work as “an attempt to express the purest part of the abstract reality of form and colour”.
Camden Arts Centre presented a focused ‘cabinet’ style exhibition of ‘dot’ and other abstract paintings by Francis Picabia from the late 1940s and early 1950s, including some never seen before in the UK, borrowed from collections across Europe. Picabia ‘always liked to amuse himself seriously’, with a particular fondness for fast cars and the high life. Gertrude Stein dubbed him as the Leonardo da Vinci of the futurist movement, admiring his ‘wildness and mysticism’. However, the paintings at Camden Arts Centre represent the final reduction of his semi-abstract paintings, made during a downturn in his personal fortunes. In some, exuberantly applied layers of paint are finally resolved with a couple of dots. In others, twisting lines and organic shapes recall Picabia’s paintings of machine and figure compositions made twenty years earlier. His experiments with painting have now established Picabia as one of the pioneers of postmodernism as it developed in the 1970s and 80s.