The Life of Pierre Daura

How many times have we recognized a painting almost immediately, but cannot quite recall the artist’s name? If we do know the artist’s name, how much do we actually know about him or her or their life? An artist’s personal experiences and surroundings influence their work and specific style.

Therefore, I wanted to take a moment to really delve into the life of the current artist on display: Pierre Daura. The special exhibition, which runs until December 21, focuses on how Daura’s family inspired his work throughout his career. Typically the lives of artists are quite fascinating and sometimes scandalous. It is history and facts that you can’t make up. Daura is no exception. He had a life affected by the times and events happening around him.

Born Pedro Francisco Daura y Garcia in 1896, Pierre grew up in Barcelona, Spain. The name Pierre only came about when he moved to Paris in 1914 and was issued his French identity papers. He sold his first painting when he was only fourteen and worked with Emile Bernard, a French Post-Impressionist painter, after he moved to Paris. Unfortunately, in 1923, Pierre’s left hand was badly injured and became useless after his scaffolding collapsed while working on a mural in Normandy. Tragedy struck again in 1927 when Daura’s and Gustavo Cochet’s batik material business burned down.

In 1929, Pierre helped organize a group of artists calling themselves Cercle et Carré, or Circle and Square. This group “promoted geometric construction and abstraction in opposition to Surrealism.” They and their one exhibition in Paris were completely ignored by the French press in 1930. Individually though, Pierre had several exhibitions in both Spain and France from 1928 to 1935.

Soon after, he signed up to fight in the Spanish Civil War against the dictator Francisco Franco. Six months later, he was severely injured and sent back to France, and he refused to return to Spain causing him to lose his citizenship. The war also affected his viewpoint on life and things such as fame became of little importance.

Daura and his family left Europe in 1939 for Virginia, where his wife was from. He no longer sold his art in commercial galleries but from his home and academic venues. Daura created both abstract and representational sculptures and paintings throughout his life. He passed away in January 1976 and is buried in Virginia.

In his later years Daura said:

All I have ever wanted to do is to find a way to paint. I have painted. I have worked. I have given myself to my art. That is what I have wanted since my very early age…to be an artist, good or bad…that is what I am.

According to Lynchburg College, where Daura was once the chairman of the Art Department, “Pierre Daura’s strength as an artist was that he understood, experimented with, and absorbed diverse influences, distilled from them what was significant to him, and developed his own distinctive way to paint.”

References:

  1. Davis, Virginia Irby. A Biography of Catalan-American Artist Pierre Daura 1896-1976. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd. 2001.
  2. Macià, Teresa. Pierre Daura (1896-1976). Barcelona: Àmbit Serveis Editorials, S. A., 1999.
  3. Pierre Daura Archive, Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia.
  4. Pierre Daura: His Life, Daura Gallery, Lynchburg College.
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