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 Marius Dezayas  (1880 - 1961)

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Lived/Active: New York/California / Mexico      Known for: caricature, abstract portrait, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Shortly after moving to New York City in 1907, Marius De Zayas, an illustrator, caricaturist, writer and art dealer, became part of the Stieglitz circle, and in 1909 and 1910 exhibited caricatures* of New York personalities at Stieglitz's gallery, the Little Gallery of the Photo-Secession*.

De Zayas exhibited there again in 1913 in a solo show entitled Caricature: Absolute and Relative, showing highly original caricature portraits in which he depicted, not external characteristics, but instead described the subject by a combination of curved lines, geometric shapes, and mathematical symbols and formula that he believed symbolized the spirit of the individual.

De Zayas called these "geometric equivalents", and over the next two years made a number of portraits of various people, including Stieglitz, Picabia, the artist Katharine N. Rhoades, and Theodore Roosevelt.  The works have a particular historical importance because they predate Picabia's "machinist portraits" and may have influenced them.

De Zayas's main significance to early 20th-century American art, however, lies in his activities as an art dealer and his writings for several important avant-garde publications.  He opened two galleries of his own: The Modern Gallery (1915-18) and the De Zayas Gallery (1919-1921), showing the most progressive of European artists, Picasso, Braque, Picabia, Van Gogh, Derain, Brancusi, Modigliani, and Cezanne; and American modernists, Marin, Dove, Walkowitz, Paul Strand, Sheeler, and Schamberg; and also African and Pre-Columbian sculpture.

After the De Zayas Gallery closed, he acted as an advisor to other New York galleries, organizing exhibitions of modern art.  His own collection of African art was an important visual source for American artists.  In addition, he contributed several articles to Camera Work in 1911-14, and was an editor at the short-lived avant-garde publication 291.

He co-authored books with Paul Haviland: A Study of the Modern Evolution of Plastic Form, 1913, and African Negro Art: Its Influence on Modern Art,1916. 

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

*For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary at

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1880. DeZayas studied at the Mark Hopins Art Institute while in San Francisco in 1904. He then settled in NYC where he opened a gallery dealing in modern European art. Exh: PAFA, 1921.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
City Directory.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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