- "It's better than nothing, because really, here, there's nothing ...", wrote Francis Picabia to Alfred Stieglitz from Barcelona on 22 January 1917, to announce the publication of his "magazine", 391, the "double" that of the New York photographer, 291 [Cited in M. Sanouillet, 1966, p. 46].
- Even if Picabia appeared to be duplicating 291 in the title and material presentation of his magazine, 391 is the instrument which allowed him to diffuse his art and his ideas: from the launch of the magazine in 1917 until 1924, each issue contained the artist's poems, notes, and drawings, and the covers almost always reproduced one of his works. The periods in which Picabia experienced difficulty account for the magazine's irregular rhythm of publication: a turning point in his art, boredom, solitude, and illness... "Better than nothing": to do everything to avoid doing nothing, to work, to create to live. For Picabia, as for the Dada movement, which he joined after the creation of 391, these years of war were about battling nothingness, the vacuum that is civilization, with provocation.
- Between January and March of 1917, four issues appeared in Barcelona, then three others in New York between March and July of the same year. Behind a 'mechanomorphic' drawing by Picabia, he published texts and illustrations from the circle of artists located in Barcelona, then from innovative artists from New York, whom he tried to federate around his journal, but without success; numbers six and seven contained almost exclusively his own texts and drawings.
- Picabia returned Europe and in February of 1918, he was in Lausanne and entered into contact with Tristan Tzara. The two men understood and appreciated each other. Picabia moved to Zurich in February 1919 and stayed there for three months. A great effervescence resulted from these exchanges. Picabia's ideas joined those of Dada; they developed mutually and complemented each other. Tzara and Picabia decided to collaborate on the next issues of their respective reviews - Dada Numbers 4-5 and 391 Number 8, in February 1919. The latter is in a larger format than previous issues. A new series began, inaugurated by Picabia's Construction moléculaire, which appeared on the first page instead of the usual 'mecanomorphic' drawing. Construction is the allocation or the recapitulation on a grid (a chessboard?) of people, places, and journals close to Picabia: the New York artists and their reviews make up the majority, along with Tzara and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes; Apollinaire being the only artist from a former generation. On a subsequent page appeared two texts, by Tzara and Picabia, printed side-by-side and head-to-foot, the result and symbol of their common work.
- Issue 9, published in Paris in November 1919, was concerned essentially with a polemic by Ribemont-Dessaignes against the Salon d'automne. The change persisted. Beginning with issue Number 10 (December 1919), the format grew even larger. The magazine gained clarity and deftness, the words harder hitting, the illustrations more striking. The first page, cover and title page, were no longer constrained by the format of title/drawing. The text progressively took over the cover; it became just as dense as the others.
- Typographical design and composition developed. Walter Serner and André Breton contributed to issue 11, published in February 1920. Heading issue 12 (March 1920), L.H.O.O.Q. by Marcel Duchamp was supported by a 'Dada manifesto' by Picabia. The contents included the forever-faithful Ribemont-Dessaignes, as well as Tzara, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, Céline Arnauld, and Paul Dermée. This issue also reproduced Picabia's La Sainte Vierge.
- Number 13 (July 1920) is lighter, in every sense of the term, whereas number 14 (November 1920), the final Dada issue, was an explosion. The layout was the most developed; no page bore any resemblance to another. It featured a composition by Tzara, Une nuit déchec gras, a poem composed entirely of 'advertisements' for page 62 Dada publications. In this poem, the typographic procedures commonly used in advertising at the time were pushed to the extreme and metamorphosed. The sobriety of the opposite page, on which appears Picabia's poem Notre-Dame-de-la-peinture, opposes Une nuit and reinforces its impact. In 1921, the Pilhaou-Thibaou appears, subtitled, 'an illustrated supplement to 391' (number 15), used entirely for controversial aims, while Picabia separated himself from Dada. In the last four issues published in 1924, Picabia flouted surrealism by 'inventing' Superrealism or Instantaneism.
- What still surprises and holds our interest today in 391 - evidence of the distress and the revolt of a man, but also of an era - is a certain allure that continues despite or with the innovations, the provocations, the refusals that it embodies. That is, the sign of a certain liberty.
- TEXT CREDITS
Rémi Froger, '391', translated from the French text, published in the catalogue Dada (Editions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 64-65. The translation was part of the Press Pack, published by MNAM Centre Pompidou 2005, p. 61-62 [Courtesy MNAM Centre Pompidou].
No. 8 (February 1919); collection New York Public Library.
N° 1 (January 1917) - N° 19 (October 1924)
Edited by Francis Picabia. Published in Barcelona (N° 1-4), New York (N° 5-7), Zurich (N° 8), and Paris (N° 9-19).
- • N° 15 'Le Pilhaou-Thibaou', announced as an 'illustrated supplement of 391' (Paris, 10 July 1920)
- • N° 19 (October 1924) 'Journal de l'Instantaneïsme'
Varying formats (32-56 cm)
- main contributors
- Guillaume Apollinaire, Louis Aragon, Walter C. Arensberg, Céline Arnauld, Hans Arp, Pierre Albert-Birot, André Breton, Gabrielle Buffet, Jean Cocteau, Jean Crotti, Robert Desnos, Paul Dermée, Paul Éluard, Albert Gleizes, M. Goth, Max Jacob, M. Laurencin, René Magritte, Pierre de Massot, E.L.T. Mesens, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Eric Satie, Walter Serner, Philippe Soupault, Tristan Tzara, Edgard Varèse, Marius de Zayas.
- [printed] 391 (Le Terrain Vague/Eric Losfeld : Paris, 1960-1966) 2 vols. Several re-editions. Vol. 1: 391 Revue publiée de 1917 à 1924 par Francis Picabia / réédition intégrale présentée par Michel Sanouillet. Bibliography in vol. 1 (p. 145-146) and vol. 2 (p. 260-263). Includes introduction by Philippe Soupault 'Francis Picabia et 391'.
- [printed] Reprinted by Ronny van de Velde (Antwerpen 1993).
- [anthology] Dawn Ades, '391', in The Dada Reader. A Critical Anthology / edited by Dawn Ades (Tate Publishing : London 2006) 103-144.
- William A. Camfield
'Du "291" à 391. Alfred Stiegtliz, Marius de Zayas et Francis Picabia, un dialogue à trois, 1913-1917', in New York et l’art moderne. Alfred Stieglitz et son cercle (1905-1930) (Réunion des musées nationaux etc. : Paris etc. 2004) 117-140. Catalogue of an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay (18 October 2004-16 January 2005) and at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (10 February-16 May 2005).
- Maria Caudill Dennison
'Francis Picabia’s "Américaine" from the cover of 391, July 1917', in The Burlington Magazine 146, no. 1218 (2004) 621-623.
- Ruth Hemus
'A Dada Season: 391 (1919-24), Cannibale (1920), Projecteur (1920), Dada (1920-1), Le Coeur à Barbe (1922)', in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Volume III: Europe 1880 - 1940 / edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker, and Christian Weikop (Oxford University Press : Oxford etc. forthcoming).
- David Hopkins
'Proto-Dada. The New York connection: The Ridgefield Gazook (1915), The Blind Man (1917), Rongwrong (1917), 391 (1917), TNT (1919), New York Dada (1921)', in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Volume III: Europe 1880 - 1940 / edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker, and Christian Weikop (Oxford University Press : Oxford etc. forthcoming).
- Chris Joseph
'After 391: Picabia's early multimedia experiments' (first version 01/04/2002) [online]; available at <http://www.chrisjoseph.org/after391/> [accessed 2 August 2011].
- Debbie Lewer
'The avant-garde in Swiss exile 1914-20: Der Mistral (1915), Sirius (1915-16), Cabaret Voltaire (1916), Dada (1917-19), 391 (No. 8, 1918), Der Zeltweg (1919), Almanach der Freien Zeitung (1918)', in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 / edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker, and Christian Weikop (Oxford University Press : Oxford etc. 2013).
- Béatrice Mousli
'291-391', in Béatrice Mousli, Max Jacob (Flammarion : Paris 2005) 149-152.
- Michel Sanouillet
'Francis Picabia et 391', in 391 / rééd. intégr. de la revue publiée de 1917 à 1924 par Francis Picabia. Vol. 2 (Éric Losfeld/Le Terrain Vague : Paris 1966). Thesis Faculté des Lettres de Paris, 1965.