Francis Picabia, ‘Ici, C'est Ici Stieglitz Foit et Amour’, 1915, Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Francis Picabia, the child of a Spanish-Cuban father and a French mother, first travelled to New York in 1913 to attend the Armory Show. He made such a personal impression on Alfred Stieglitz that the gallerist immediately offered him a solo exhibition. By 1915 these friendly relations had soured. Picabia channeled this negative energy into his illustrations for the combined July–August 1915 issue of the periodical 291. He rendered caricaturist Marius de Zayas as a perpetual motion machine and journalist Agnes Meyer as a spark plug. These diagrams of energy-producing contraptions contrasted sharply with the representation of Stieglitz, depicted as a combined broken camera bellows and stationary vehicle. Despite this implicitly downbeat criticism, the elder photographer kept the original ink drawing and collage (1915; Metropolitan Museum of Art) for his own “likeness” until his death in 1946.

Image rights: © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photo Credit: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / Art Resource, New York

"This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today"

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., gift of Katharine Graham

About Francis Picabia

During his early career, Francis Picabia painted in the Impressionist style and exhibited at the Paris salons. However, from 1908 on, elements of Fauvism and Neo-Impressionism, as well as Cubism and other modes of abstraction, would appear in his work; he later joined the Puteaux Group, of which Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay, and Marcel Duchamp were members. The year 1915 marked the beginning of Picabia’s “machinist” period, during which he produced works inspired by industrial developments, such as Machine turn quickly (1916–18) and his satirical drawing Universal Prostitution (1916), which was intended to take a jab at bourgeois sexuality. While in Barcelona in 1917, Picabia launched a Dada periodical titled 391 after Alfred Stieglitz’s periodical 291, though he eventually denounced Dada and returned to figurative painting. In the ’40s, his practice took a surprising turn as he began to paint nudes in the style of French glamour magazines, as in Femmes au bull-dog (1942). Picabia was a close friend of the famous art collector and writer Gertrude Stein.

French, 1879-1953, Paris, France, based in Paris, France