The Easel

Francis Picabia. Zürich and New York

The key works for which Picabia is acclaimed occurred in one decade. But a broader focus across his whole career produces a withering assessment. “The retrospective demonstrated how, depending on his target and on the contingencies of the historical moment, Picabia’s abiding negativity oscillated between the nihilist’s glee in puncturing false optimism and the reactionary’s complicit snigger in the face of horror.”