Pierre Daura: Picturing Attachments

October 4 to December 21, 2014

The art of Pierre Daura (1896–1976) offers many points of engagement. His noteworthy role in the development of European abstraction as part of the Parisian avant-garde of the 1920s places him at the center of the most important art movement of the twentieth century. His service in 1937 with anti-Franco forces during the Spanish Civil War inspired powerful and resonant documents of the ravages of war. His relocation to the United States in 1939 added him to the ranks of émigré artists (including Joseph Albers and Max Beckmann, among many others) who shaped the American cultural climate during and after World War II. His personal relationships—from his deep attachment to his mother, whom he lost at age seven, to his devotion to his wife Louise Heron Blair and daughter Martha Daura—affected not only his choice of models but his choice of subjects throughout much of his professional life. This aspect of Daura’s career has not received the attention it deserves.

This is the first exhibition devoted to Pierre Daura’s artistic focus on his family. Because of his creative responses to his intimate relationships, Daura can be grouped with artists such as Dürer and Zuccaro earlier in history; Rembrandt (among others) in the seventeenth century; and Carl Larsson, Ferdinand Hodler, and many others in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sometimes working within long-standing visual traditions (as he did during his courtship) and other times making unique contributions of his own (as he faced his wife’s terminal illness in 1972), Daura is distinctive for the many ways in which his family attachments shaped his work throughout his career. His marriage, the birth of his daughter Martha, his service in the Spanish Civil War, his exile to America during World War II, and his wife’s later illness and death were among the personal circumstances that resulted in images that rank among some of Daura’s most beautiful works on paper, canvas, and wood.

Organized by IU Art Museum, this exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Daura Foundation and the IU Art Museum’s Arc Fund. Research for this project was supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Daura Foundation, and IU’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities grant program. Special thanks are due to Martha Daura and to William U. Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art, the museum’s partner in this project. This exhibition and the accompanying catalogue are dedicated to the memories of the late Thomas W. Mapp (d. 2014), and Andrew Ladis (d. 2007).

Image: Pierre Daura, Martha in Her Graduation Dress, 1946. Oil on canvas. Gift of Martha R. Daura, Indiana University Art Museum, 2001.78.