Pedro Francisco Daura y Garcia was born February 21, 1896, on the island of Minorca, Balearic Islands, Spain, and moved shortly thereafter with his family to Barcelona, Catalonia. His father was a violinist with the Barcelona Liceo Orchestra and his godfather was the famed cellist Pablo Casals.
Daura’s artistic talents were evident at an early age. His formal art education was received at the School of Fine Arts (La Llotja), where his teachers included Jose Ruiz Blasco (Picasso’s father) and Joseph Calvo. At age 14, with young friends Emilio Bosch-Roger and Vidal Salichs, he established a studio and sold his first painting at their inaugural exhibit because “it reminded the purchaser of a Cézanne.”
Upon Daura’s graduation from La Llotja in 1914, Calvo urged him to go to Paris to pursue his art career. There he worked in the studio of Émile Bernard, cataloguing and arranging the Van Gogh letters to Bernard.
Following three years of compulsory military service in Spain, Daura returned to Paris in 1920, took up residence in Montmartre, and resumed his painting career.
With Gustavo Cochet as his partner, he went into the business of designing and making silk batiks for couturiers. During this period, he exhibited periodically in Barcelona with the group, Agrupacio d’Artistes Catalans, in Amsterdam at Gallery Vecht and in Paris where he had his first solo exhibition in 1928.
In 1928 Daura married Louise Blair of Richmond, Virginia, who was in Paris studying art. A few years later, her sister, Jean, married the the French artist Jean Hélion.
Daura was a close friend of Joaquin Torres-Garcia and Michael Seuphor and joined them in 1929 to form a group called Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square), which promoted geometric construction and abstraction as opposed to the irrationality of Surrealism. Their first and only exhibition was held at Gallery 23 in Paris, April 1930. There were three issues of a review for which Daura designed the logo as well as a poster.
The group included Arp, Hélion, Kandinsky, Leger, Mondrian, LeCorbusier, Pevsner, Stella, Vantongerloo, and others. Virtually ignored by the press of the day, the group is now considered of great importance in the history of modern art.
In 1930, the Dauras moved to St. Cirq-Lapopie, France and began restoration of a newly-purchased 13th century house. Their only child, Martha, was born in September, 1930.
In 1931 Daura won the prestigious St. Cecilia prize in a competition sponsored by the Monastery of Montserrat. With the prize money, he went with his family to Deya, Mallorca, for a winter of painting.
Making his first trip to the United States in 1934-35, he and his family visited Louise’s relatives and Daura painted many Virginia landscapes which were exhibited in 1935 at Gallery Barcino in Barcelona.
In 1937, at the age of 41, Daura joined the Spanish Republican army as a volunteer to fight against the forces of Franco during the Spanish Civil War. He served as a forward artillery observer, was badly wounded in the battle of Teruel, and sent home to France to convalesce.
His refusal to return to Spain at the end of war resulted in the revocation of his and Martha’s citizenship. He never again returned to his homeland to live.
While the family was in Virginia in 1939, World War II broke out, preventing their return to France until 1947. They established permanent residence in Virginia and Pierre and Martha became naturalized U.S. citizens.
Daura was chairman of the Art Department at University of Lynchburg in 1945-46, and taught at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College from 1946 to 1953, after which he returned to full time painting.
In 1959 the Dauras built a contemporary house and studio beside the warm springs pool at Rockbridge Baths, Virginia. Thereafter, they alternated seasons at the Baths and in St. Cirq. Louise Daura died in 1972 and Pierre Daura in 1976. Both are buried in Rockbridge Baths.
Daura once 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.”
His prolific output of thousands of works – paintings, drawings, sculpture, engravings – and the diversity of his subject matter – landscapes, still lifes, portraits, self-portraits, figure studies, abstracts – all attest to the success of his lifelong love affair with art.
Daura’s early exposure to Romanesque and Gothic art in his native Catalonia, his extensive knowledge of prehistoric cave art and his love of the art of Cézanne and El Greco, coupled with his presence in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, where he had close contact with other artists of the avant-garde, as well as his own explorations of the foremost movements of the day, furnished a wealth of experiences which would excite his curiosity and provide influences from which he developed his own particular style.
In Daura’s early work, visual connections to Cézanne, El Greco, the Cubists and the Constructivists can be detected. As he developed, traces of these influences were skillfully amalgamated with romantic realism, and combined with a gentle expressionism and imaginative abstraction.
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.
As any artist must, Pierre Daura found inspiration in the people, the times, the objects, and the places of his world, responding with innumerable interpretations of the landscapes of Spain, St. Cirq, and Virginia; portraits and figure studies of friends and family (particularly his wife and daughter); a lifelong series of self portraits; works influenced by the Spanish Civil War; the ever-recurring theme of mother and child; and hundreds of still lifes.
Daura once said, “… through images, (the artist) delivers clearly and incisively a rich content of thought to the viewer … images that should open the eyes and through the mind, reach the heart.”
During his lifetime, Daura’s works were shown in well over 100 group and solo exhibitions. Since his death in 1976, there have been more than 20 exhibitions in both America and Europe, many of which were retrospectives.