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PRINT February 2008

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George Baker’s The Artwork Caught by the Tail

FRANCIS PICABIA was already an adept of the most variant isms by the time he arrived in Paris in 1919, at age forty, and placed himself at the forefront of the latest avant-garde, then falling into rank under the banner of Dada. Unlike many of the artists involved in the movement, for whom its emergence was a direct consequence of the First World War, Picabia had spent the previous four years traveling, far from the front, in a sheltered world of money, sanatoriums, and art. It is therefore not surprising that he focused his Dadaist aggression primarily on the art world itself rather than on the political and social issues that had set in motion the prior manifestations of Dada in Zurich, Berlin, and Cologne. He once said he would like to set up a “‘paternal’ school for the discouragement of young people from what our good snobs call Art with a capital A.” Such a “school” is no doubt one

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