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Pierre Daura: A Retrospective, 1896-1976


The Vero Beach Museum of Art presents the impressive exhibition Pierre Daura: A Retrospective, 1896-1976 through November 10, 2002.

Pierre Daura's career as an artist spanned over three-quarters of the twentieth century. The generous donation to the Vero Beach Museum of Art of 44 works in various media by the artist's daughter, Martha Daura, is unprecedented in the museum's history. These works solidly represent the Catalan-American artist's stylistic development throughout his long and prolific career. From his school days in Barcelona, to his final years in Virginia, Pierre Daura remained the consummate creator, striving to give outward substance to inner expression. As Daura grappled with numerous, varied artistic influences from Europe, he remained a devoted father and husband, and it is perhaps this more than anything else that sustained and stimulated his singular, expressive vision. Nearly 30 additional works were borrowed from private collections to round out the viewers experience.

The museum's Daura holdings, divided into six subjects, include war scenes, group portraits, self-portraits, geometric abstraction, landscapes, and still lifes. The thirty-six paintings, three drawings, four graphic works, and one sculpture, spanning the period 1924-75, range from naturalism and colorful expressionism to stark abstraction. Emotional images serve as reactions to Daura's experiences of the chaos and horrors of war. Penetrating family and self-portraits depict the artist's devotion to the concept of familial bonds and insightfully record various stages of adulthood. The vibrant, expressive landscapes of Daura's native Spain and home in St. Cirq-Lapopie give way to pensive and experimental scenes of the Virginia countryside. Finally, still lifes showcase Daura's use of color not only as an expressive, descriptive element, but also as a vehicle for abstraction.


Pierre Daura Biography:

The Vero Beach Museum of Art is one of a select few museums who have been fortunate enough to acquire works by Daura through the Daura Foundation. Headed by the artist's daughter, Martha Daura (who is also a part-time Vero Beach, Florida resident), the foundation has made as its primary goal the placement of his art in museums of the highest standard across the United States and Europe. Along with (museum collections), the museum is proud to have a substantial holding of Daura's work. The Vero Beach Museum of Art's acquisition of 44 artworks highlights the various styles and stages in which this prolific artist worked, and places the institution in an esteemed position among museums in this country which house the work of significant European-American artists. (left: Pierre Daura, (American b. Spain 1896-1976), Self-Portrait with Red Shirt, ca. 1965, oil on canvas, 30 x 20 inches)

Pierre Daura is a modern master of the 20th century whose later years outside of any art center led, until recently, to the overlooking of his importance for modern art. His output in painting, drawing, and engraving was prolific. Daura was versatile in many media, including oil, gouache, watercolor, wood, stone and metal. His varied subjects focused on landscapes, self-portraits, figure studies and abstracts. His life-long series of self-portraits are imbued with pathos and physical decline.

Pierre Daura (Pedro Francisco Daura y Garcia) was born February 21, 1896 in Minorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. His father was a musician in the Barcelona Liceo Orchestra and a textile merchant. After his mother's death at age seven, his father raised Daura and his younger brother and sister. In his youth he attended the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, "La Llotja." Here he was taught by Picasso's father, Jose Ruiz Blasco. In 1910, at age 14, he rented a studio with friends and sold his first painting at their inaugural exhibit. Daura traveled to Paris in 1914, a few months before the outbreak of World War One and stayed until 1917. He worked for some time in the studio of Émile Bernard, developing a friendship with the master that lasted many years. He also studied engraving with Andre Lambert, editor of Janus.

From 1918 to 1933 he exhibited with Agrupacio d'Artistes Catalans across Europe. Returning to Paris from Spain in 1920, Daura was friends and worked with Catalan artist Pierre Creixams and Argentinean artist Gustavo Cochet. He exhibited at the Paris Salon d'Automne in 1922 and 1926. In 1928, joined with four others rejected by the Salon, Daura participated in the critically acclaimed exhibition at Gallery Marck: Cinq Peintres Refusés par le Jury du Salon.

In 1928 Daura married American art student Louise Blair, who was from Richmond, Virginia (later Louise's sister would marry Jean Hélion). In 1930 their only child, Martha, was born (Martha is now a part-time resident of Vero Beach).

Daura exhibited frequently in Paris and Barcelona until the Spanish Civil War, including solo exhibitions in Paris at Gallery René Zivy in 1928, and in Barcelona at Gallery Badrinas in 1929 and 1931, Gallery Syra in 1932 and 1933, and Gallery Barcino in 1935.

In 1929-30, along with his close friends and colleagues Torres-Garcia and Michel Seuphor, Daura formed the avant-garde artists' group Circle and Square (Cercle et Carré), which promoted geometric construction and abstraction as opposed to the irrationality of Surrealism. With this group he participated in the major November 1929 exhibition at Gallery Dalmau in Barcelona, Exposicio d'Art Modern Nacional i Estranger. In Paris Circle and Square held its first and only exhibition in April 1930 at Gallery 23. Although ignored by the press at the time, this exhibition has become an important moment in the history of abstract art. Daura designed the group logo and exhibition poster. By 1930 members of the group included Arp, Clausen, Gorin, Kandinsky, Leger, Mondrian, Pevsner, Russolo, Stella and Vantongerloo.

In 1934 Daura made his first trip to the U.S., visiting his wife's family in Virginia for almost a year, producing Virginia landscapes.

In 1937, at age 41, the artist joined the Republican army in the Spanish Civil War to fight Franco forces. He was seriously wounded and sent to France to convalesce. He refused to return to Spain after the war, resulting in the revocation of his (and daughter Martha's) Spanish citizenship. He never again returned to Spain, and many works of this period document his experiences during the war and subsequent efforts to assist refugees held in compounds in Southern France.

In 1939 the Dauras were in Virginia, and were prevented from returning to France with the outbreak of World War Two, leading to the establishment of their permanent residence there. He and Martha became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1943, returning to their home in St. Circ-Lapopie after the end of the war each summer. Daura had no contact with major galleries in Europe or America after his move in 1939, though he did have many solo exhibitions in Virginia and sold extensively. In the opinion of his daughter, Daura's abandonment of his previously ambitious career and personal fame was due to his traumatic experiences in the Spanish Civil War and followed by the tragedies of World War II. (left: Pierre Daura, (American b. Spain 1896-1976), Ascó Spain, ca. 1929, engraving on paper, 7 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches, Gift of Martha R. Daura)

In 1945-46 Daura was made Chairman of the Art Department at Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia. From 1946-53 he taught at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Lynchburg, and returned to full-time painting and sculpting in 1953. Among his students is the well-known contemporary artist Cy Twombly, who began studying with Daura at age 14, leading to a life-long friendship and highly regarded reverence for the master's influence on his art.

From 1959-1976 Daura and his wife lived at Rockbridge Baths, a tiny village in the foothills of the Allegheny mountains until their respective deaths: Louise in 1972 and Daura in 1976. The Daura Gallery was established at Lynchburg College in Virginia and contains a permanent display of a large collection of his art, as well as a more extensive collection of his work in storage, and the Daura archives.

Bibliography: Daura is included in numerous exhibition catalogues, as well as standard texts on Spanish and Catalan painting, including 33 Pintors Catalans (Barcelona, 1937, reissued 1976). There is also a video on Daura in the Vero Beach Museum of Art library.


The following is rekeyed and reprinted from the gallery guide for the exhibition:


Daura: A Concise Biography
Pedro Francisco Daura y Garcia (Pierre Daura, 1896-1976) was born in Minorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. He lost his mother at the age of six and was raised by his father, who never remarried. Daura studied art at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, taught by José Ruiz Blasco (Picasso's father), among others, and sold his first painting at the age of 14. Months before the outbreak of World War I, he went to Paris to pursue an art career, where he worked for and befriended master painter Émile Bernard. In 1922, Daura exhibited with the Salon D'Automne in Paris. The following year he was badly injured. While painting a mural in Normandy, the scaffolding collapsed, rendering his left hand permanently useless. (left: Pierre Daura, ca. 1950s, oil on canvas, photograph: Dr. Robert Munger)
Daura continued to paint, exhibited in the critically acclaimed Cinq Peintres Refusés par le Jury du Salon in 1928, and later that year, married American art student Louise Blair. In 1930 the Dauras moved to St. Cirq-Lapopie, France, where their only child, Martha, was born. The following year, Daura won the St. Cecilia prize in a major art competition in Catalonia.
Daura, wife Louise, and daughter Martha made their first trip to the United States in 1934, where he painted many landscapes. After returning to France, Daura joined the Republican Army as a volunteer to fight Franco forces, in spite of his impaired left hand. At the end of the Spanish Civil War, Daura's Spanish citizenship was revoked and he never again returned to his homeland.
In 1939, in the shadow of World War II, the Dauras established a permanent residence in Virginia. Both Daura and his daughter Martha became naturalized citizens. After the war, the family returned to France each summer.
In Virginia, Daura became Art Department Chair at Lynchburg College and a teacher at Randolph-Macon Women's College, and then returned to full-time painting. In 1959 he had a new house built beside the warm springs in Rockbridge Baths, Virginia, where he often painted the farms, people, and mountains of this area. Here, he and his wife lived until their deaths.

Also see our earlier article Pierre Daura: Catalán-American Artist (9/99).

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Vero Beach Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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