Museum of Fine Arts

St. Petersburg, FL



Pierre Daura: Catalán-American Artist


Pierre Daura: Catalán-American Artist, on exhibit through October 31, 1999 presents all seventeen works by Pierre Daura recently given to the Museum by his daughter Martha R. Daura. Reflecting Daura's versatility, this wonderful gift encompasses oils, watercolors, etchings, and one sculpture in styles ranging from Synthetic Cubism to more naturalistic landscapes.

In addition to Cubism,:Daura (1896-1976) was strongly influenced by the work of El Greco, Cézanne, and Constructivism, with his mature works tending to be representational. This select show also includes one of Daura's compelling self-portraits, which he painted throughout his life.

Daura's work has now been selected for more than 100 group and solo shows at such major institutions as the Yale University Art Gallery, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. He is represented in the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. The last museum has substantial holdings of his work and presented a retrospective of his career in 1999. His daughter opened a gallery dedicated to his work in 1990 at Lynchburg College, where Daura once served as chair of the art department. (left: Self-Portrait with Red Tie, 1954-59, 61 x 54 inches, oil on canvas, Gift of Martha R. Daura)

"We are honored that Martha Daura selected our museum to receive these extraordinary paintings," said Museum Director Michael Milkovich, "and we are happy to present all of them to the public at the beginning of the new season. That is a sign of the great respect we have for these works, and baseball fans in the area will not want to miss two of Daura's paintings celebrating the great American pastime."

Born on the island of Minorca, Daura, the son of a violinist in Barcelona's Liceo Orchestra, grew up in artistic circles. He was the godson of the great cellist Pablo Casals and studied art in Barcelona with José Ruiz Blasco, the father of Pablo Picasso. He was definitely precocious. At fourteen, with two friends, he rented a studio and sold his first painting at their inaugural exhibition.

Encouraged by his other early art teacher, Joseph Calvo, he left for Paris in 1914. Like many of his generation, he was lured by the excitement and experimentation of what was then the art capital of the world. He began studies with Emile Bernard, with whom he developed a long-lasting friendship, and learned techniques of engraving from André Lambert, the editor of Janus, a prestigious journal published in Latin. Following compulsory Minorcan military service from 1917 to 1920, Daura returned to Paris, moved to the bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre, and participated in the Salon d'Automne exhibitions of 1922 and 1926, serving notice that he was a young artist to watch. (right: Breton House and Church, 1951-64, 81 x 65 inches, oil on paper, glued to canvas, Gift of Martha R. Daura)

In 1928, Daura showed his work with four other artists rejected by the Salon, including the influential Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres Garcia, founder of El Taller (Workshop) Torres Garcia, and Jean Hélion, whose portrait of the French writer-poet Jacques Lusseyran is part of the Museum's collection. Torres Garcia went on to establish in Montevideo one of the most progressive art educational centers in Latin America. As in Torres Garcia's own work, his workshop/school attempted to nurture and advocate specifically Latin American approaches to Modernism. In 1928, Daura married Louise Blair, a young American art student in Paris, and a few years later, Louise's sister married Hélion.

The following year, Daura formed the group Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square) in Paris with Torres Garcia and the Belgian writer Michel Seuphor. Primarily Constructivist in approach, the group promoted geometric abstraction in stark contrast to the emphasis placed on irrationality, which was promoted by their contemporaries, the Surrealists. Cercle et Carré held its first exhibition in 1930 at Galerie 23, featuring works by Hans (Jean) Arp, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Amédée Ozenfant, Piet Mondrian, and once again, Jean Hélion. Though short lived, Cercle et Carré, as the artists involved indicate, was an important group, not so much in its own time, but in the history of abstract art.

Daura left Paris for the country in 1930, purchasing a thirteenth-century house in St. Cirq Lapopie, a village in southwestern France near Cahors. He was drawn to its medieval stone architecture, which he incorporated in numerous paintings, including in four views of St. Cirq's church and presbytery, works which are now part of the Museum's collection. There, the couple's only child Martha was born.

During the Spanish Civil War, he fought as a forward artillery observer against France and was seriously wounded and forced to return to France. He completed many works based on his experiences in the war and the plight of refugees. According to his daughter, his wartime experiences profoundly changed his life. Before his military service, Daura was committed to establishing a successful career. Afterwards, he: was more interested in pursuing his art for his own satisfaction and sold his work chiefly to support his family. He was less interested in accolades.

In 1939, Daura and his wife returned to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, intending to stay briefly while Louise recovered from an illness. Because of the increasingly dangerous climate in Europe, he remained in the United States. Daura became a U.S. citizen in 1943 and chairman of the art department at Lynchburg College in 1445. He also taught at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, also in Lynchburg, from 1946 to 1953, returning full-time to his art at the end of this tenure.


Read more about the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on Pierre Daura please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/26/10

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