American University
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Cherchez la Femme: Reassassing Francis Picabia's World War II Nudes

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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:10 authored by Paul Blakeslee

This thesis closely examines two of Francis Picabia’s oil paintings from World War II, Femme à la Sculpture Grecque Noire et Blanche (Woman with Black and White Greek Sculpture, c. 1942-43) and Femme à l’Idole (Woman With Idol, c.1941-43). It argues that Picabia employed a range of art historical allusions in each work to critique the French Surrealists’ claims about their own art-making. Aligning himself with an older tradition of modernist avant-gardism, Picabia returned to a Dadaistic mode of artistic deconstruction to wage an attack on André Breton’s theories of Surrealist art. Picabia’s critique of Surrealism encompassed the movement’s political affiliations, its fascination with the erotic female body, and its primitivizing interactions with the art of indigenous cultures. Comparing his own oeuvre to the artistic practices of Édouard Manet and Paul Gauguin, Picabia derided the Surrealist practice as a corruption of the avant-gardism represented by those artists. This understudied portion of Picabia’s oeuvre has previously been seen within the context of the artist’s personal behavior during the Vichy regime in France; however, this argument looks instead to art-historical politics, drawing links between Picabia’s early career as a Dadaist and his enigmatic later practice.



American University


Degree Awarded: M.A. Art. American University


Degree grantor

American University. Department of Art

Degree level

  • Masters

Submission ID