|Birth Day:||July 28, 1887|
|Death Date:||Oct 2, 1968 (age 81)|
|Birth Place:||Blainville-Crevon, France|
As per our current Database, Marcel Duchamp died on Oct 2, 1968 (age 81).
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His work was first exhibited in 1908 at the Salon d'Automne, mainly because his brother, Jacques, was a member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture.
As a child, with his two elder brothers already away from home at school in Rouen, Duchamp was closer to his sister Suzanne, who was a willing accomplice in games and activities conjured by his fertile imagination. At eight years old, Duchamp followed in his brothers' footsteps when he left home and began schooling at the Lycée Pierre-Corneille, in Rouen. Two other students in his class also became well-known artists and lasting friends: Robert Antoine Pinchon and Pierre Dumont. For the next eight years, he was locked into an educational regime which focused on intellectual development. Though he was not an outstanding student, his best subject was mathematics and he won two mathematics prizes at the school. He also won a prize for drawing in 1903, and at his commencement in 1904 he won a coveted first prize, validating his recent decision to become an artist.
In 1905, he began his compulsory military service with the 39th Infantry Regiment, working for a printer in Rouen. There he learned typography and printing processes—skills he would use in his later work.
Owing to his eldest brother Jacques' membership in the prestigious Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture Duchamp's work was exhibited in the 1908 Salon d'Automne, and the following year in the Salon des Indépendants. Fauves and Paul Cézanne's proto-Cubism influenced his paintings, although the critic Guillaume Apollinaire—who was eventually to become a friend—criticized what he called "Duchamp's very ugly nudes" ("les nus très vilains de Duchamp"). Duchamp also became lifelong friends with exuberant artist Francis Picabia after meeting him at the 1911 Salon d'Automne, and Picabia proceeded to introduce him to a lifestyle of fast cars and "high" living.
In 1911, at Jacques' home in Puteaux, the brothers hosted a regular discussion group with Cubist artists including Picabia, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Roger de La Fresnaye, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Juan Gris, and Alexander Archipenko. Poets and writers also participated. The group came to be known as the Puteaux Group, or the Section d'Or. Uninterested in the Cubists' seriousness, or in their focus on visual matters, Duchamp did not join in discussions of Cubist theory and gained a reputation of being shy. However, that same year he painted in a Cubist style and added an impression of motion by using repetitive imagery.
In his 1911 Portrait of Chess Players (Portrait de joueurs d'échecs) there is the Cubist overlapping frames and multiple perspectives of his two brothers playing chess, but to that Duchamp added elements conveying the unseen mental activity of the players.
New York Dada had a less serious tone than that of European Dadaism, and was not a particularly organized venture. Duchamp's friend Francis Picabia connected with the Dada group in Zürich, bringing to New York the Dadaist ideas of absurdity and "anti-art". Duchamp and Picabia first met in September 1911 at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, where they were both exhibiting. Duchamp showed a larger version of his Young Man and Girl in Spring 1911, a work that had an Edenic theme and a thinly veiled sexuality also found in Picabia's contemporaneous Adam and Eve 1911. According to Duchamp, "our friendship began right there". A group met almost nightly at the Arensberg home, or caroused in Greenwich Village. Together with Man Ray, Duchamp contributed his ideas and humor to the New York activities, many of which ran concurrent with the development of his Readymades and The Large Glass.
While in Munich in 1912, he painted the last of his Cubist-like paintings. He started The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even image, and began making plans for The Large Glass – scribbling short notes to himself, sometimes with hurried sketches. It would be more than ten years before this piece was completed. Not much else is known about the two-month stay in Munich except that the friend he visited was intent on showing him the sights and the nightlife, and that he was influenced by the works of the sixteenth century German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder in Munich's famed Alte Pinakothek, known for its Old Master paintings. Duchamp recalled that he took the short walk to visit this museum daily. Duchamp scholars have long recognized in Cranach the subdued ochre and brown color range Duchamp later employed.
A performance of the stage adaptation of Raymond Roussel's novel Impressions d'Afrique, which Duchamp attended in 1912, inspired the piece. Notes, sketches and plans for the work were drawn on his studio walls as early as 1913. To concentrate on the work free from material obligations, Duchamp found work as a librarian while living in France. After immigrating to the United States in 1915, he began work on the piece, financed by the support of the Arensbergs.
Between 1912 and 1915, Duchamp worked with various musical ideas. At least three pieces have survived: two compositions and a note for a musical happening. The two compositions are based on chance operations. Erratum Musical, written for three voices, was published in 1934. La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires même. Erratum Musical is unfinished and was never published or exhibited during Duchamp's lifetime. According to the manuscript, the piece was intended for a mechanical instrument "in which the virtuoso intermediary is suppressed". The manuscript also contains a description for "An apparatus automatically recording fragmented musical periods," consisting of a funnel, several open-end cars and a set of numbered balls. These pieces predate John Cage's Music of Changes (1951), which is often considered the first modern piece to be conceived largely through random procedures.
In 1913, Duchamp withdrew from painting circles and began working as a librarian in the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève to be able to earn a living wage while concentrating on scholarly realms and working on his Large Glass. He studied math and physics – areas where exciting new discoveries were taking place. The theoretical writings of Henri Poincaré particularly intrigued and inspired Duchamp. Poincaré postulated that the laws believed to govern matter were created solely by the minds that "understood" them and that no theory could be considered "true". "The things themselves are not what science can reach..., but only the relations between things. Outside of these relations there is no knowable reality", Poincaré wrote in 1902. Reflecting the influence of Poincaré's writings, Duchamp tolerated any interpretation of his art by regarding it as the creation of the person who formulated it, not as truth.
"Readymades" were found objects which Duchamp chose and presented as art. In 1913, Duchamp installed a Bicycle Wheel in his studio. However, the idea of Readymades did not fully develop until 1915. The idea was to question the very notion of Art, and the adoration of art, which Duchamp found "unnecessary".
After World War I started in August 1914, with his brothers and many friends in military service and himself exempted (due to a heart murmur), Duchamp felt uncomfortable in Paris. Meanwhile, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 had scandalized Americans at the Armory Show, and helped secure the sale of all four of his paintings in the exhibition. Thus, being able to finance the trip, Duchamp decided to emigrate to the United States in 1915. To his surprise, he found he was a celebrity when he arrived in New York in 1915, where he quickly befriended art patron Katherine Dreier and artist Man Ray. Duchamp's circle included art patrons Louise and Walter Conrad Arensberg, actress and artist Beatrice Wood and Francis Picabia, as well as other avant-garde figures. Though he spoke little English, in the course of supporting himself by giving French lessons, and through some library work, he quickly learned the language. Duchamp became part of an artist colony in Ridgefield, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City.
Dada or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century. It began in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916, and spread to Berlin shortly thereafter. To quote Dona Budd's The Language of Art Knowledge,
The most prominent example of Duchamp's association with Dada was his submission of Fountain, a urinal, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit in 1917. Artworks in the Independent Artists shows were not selected by jury, and all pieces submitted were displayed. However, the show committee insisted that Fountain was not art, and rejected it from the show. This caused an uproar among the Dadaists, and led Duchamp to resign from the board of the Independent Artists.
Bottle Rack (1914), a bottle-drying rack signed by Duchamp, is considered to be the first "pure" readymade. In Advance of the Broken Arm (1915), a snow shovel, also called Prelude to a Broken Arm, followed soon after. His Fountain, a urinal signed with the pseudonym "R. Mutt", shocked the art world in 1917. Fountain was selected in 2004 as "the most influential artwork of the 20th century" by 500 renowned artists and historians.
In 1918, Duchamp took leave of the New York art scene, interrupting his work on the Large Glass, and went to Buenos Aires, where he remained for nine months and often played chess. He carved his own chess set from wood with help from a local craftsman who made the knights. He moved to Paris in 1919, and then back to the United States in 1920. Upon his return to Paris in 1923, Duchamp was, in essence, no longer a practicing artist. Instead, his main interest was chess, which he studied for the rest of his life to the exclusion of most other activities.
In 1919, Duchamp made a parody of the Mona Lisa by adorning a cheap reproduction of the painting with a mustache and goatee. To this he added the inscription L.H.O.O.Q., a phonetic game which, when read out loud in French quickly sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul". This can be translated as "She has a hot ass", implying that the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and availability. It may also have been intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo da Vinci's alleged homosexuality. Duchamp gave a "loose" translation of L.H.O.O.Q. as "there is fire down below" in a late interview with Arturo Schwarz. According to Rhonda Roland Shearer, the apparent Mona Lisa reproduction is in fact a copy modeled partly on Duchamp's own face. Research published by Shearer also speculates that Duchamp himself may have created some of the objects which he claimed to be "found objects".
Duchamp created the Société Anonyme in 1920, along with Katherine Dreier and Man Ray. This was the beginning of his lifelong involvement in art dealing and collecting. The group collected modern art works, and arranged modern art exhibitions and lectures throughout the 1930s.
Duchamp's interest in kinetic art works can be discerned as early as the notes for The Large Glass and the Bicycle Wheel readymade, and despite losing interest in "retinal art", he retained interest in visual phenomena. In 1920, with help from Man Ray, Duchamp built a motorized sculpture, Rotative plaques verre, optique de précision ("Rotary Glass Plates, Precision Optics"). The piece, which he did not consider to be art, involved a motor to spin pieces of rectangular glass on which were painted segments of a circle. When the apparatus spins, an optical illusion occurs, where the segments appear to be closed concentric circles. Man Ray set up equipment to photograph the initial experiment, but when they turned the machine for the second time, a belt broke, and caught a piece of the glass, which after glancing off Man Ray's head, shattered into bits.
"Rrose Sélavy", also spelled Rose Sélavy, was one of Duchamp's pseudonyms. The name, a pun, sounds like the French phrase Eros, c'est la vie, which may be translated as "Eros, such is life." It has also been read as arroser la vie ("to make a toast to life"). Sélavy emerged in 1921 in a series of photographs by Man Ray showing Duchamp dressed as a woman. Through the 1920s Man Ray and Duchamp collaborated on more photos of Sélavy. Duchamp later used the name as the byline on written material and signed several creations with it.
From 1922, the name Rrose Sélavy also started appearing in a series of aphorisms, puns, and spoonerisms by the French surrealist poet Robert Desnos. Desnos tried to portray Rrose Sélavy as a long-lost aristocrat and rightful queen of France. Aphorism 13 paid homage to Marcel Duchamp: "Rrose Sélavy connaît bien le marchand du sel" ‒ in English: "Rrose Sélavy knows the merchant of salt well"; in French the final words sound like Mar-champ Du-cel. Note that the 'salt seller' aphorism – "mar-chand-du-sel" – is a phonetic rearrangement of the syllables in the artist's name: "mar-cel-du-champ." (Duchamp's compiled notes are entitled, 'Salt Seller'.) In 1939 a collection of these aphorisms was published under the name of Rrose Sélavy, entitled, Poils et coups de pieds en tous genres.
The piece is partly constructed as a retrospective of Duchamp's works, including a three-dimensional reproduction of his earlier paintings Bride (1912), Chocolate Grinder (1914) and Glider containing a water mill in neighboring metals (1913–1915), which has led to numerous interpretations. The work was formally declared "Unfinished" in 1923. Returning from its first public exhibition in a shipping crate, the glass suffered a large crack. Duchamp repaired it, but left the smaller cracks in the glass intact, accepting the chance element as a part of the piece.
After moving back to Paris in 1923, at André Breton's urging, with financing by Jacques Doucet, Duchamp built another optical device based on the first one, Rotative Demisphère, optique de précision (Rotary Demisphere, Precision Optics). This time the optical element was a globe cut in half, with black concentric circles painted on it. When it spins, the circles appear to move backward and forward in space. Duchamp asked that Doucet not exhibit the apparatus as art.
In June 1927, Duchamp married Lydie Sarazin-Lavassor; however, they divorced six months later. It was rumored that Duchamp had chosen a marriage of convenience, because Sarazin-Lavassor was the daughter of a wealthy automobile manufacturer. Early in January 1928, Duchamp said that he could no longer bear the responsibility and confinement of marriage, and they were soon divorced.
Rotoreliefs were the next phase of Duchamp's spinning works. To make the optical "play toys", he painted designs on flat cardboard circles and spun them on a phonographic turntable. When spinning, the flat disks appeared three-dimensional. He had a printer produce 500 sets of six of the designs, and set up a booth at a 1935 Paris inventors' show to sell them. The venture was a financial disaster, but some optical scientists thought they might be of use in restoring three-dimensional stereoscopic sight to people who have lost vision in one eye. In collaboration with Man Ray and Marc Allégret, Duchamp filmed early versions of the Rotoreliefs, and they named the film Anémic Cinéma (1926). Later, in Alexander Calder's studio in 1931, while looking at the sculptor's kinetic works, Duchamp suggested that these should be called mobiles. Calder agreed to use this novel term in his upcoming show. To this day, sculptures of this type are called "mobiles".
In 1932, Duchamp teamed with chess theorist Vitaly Halberstadt to publish L'opposition et cases conjuguées sont réconciliées (Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled), known as corresponding squares. This treatise describes the Lasker-Reichhelm position, an extremely rare type of position that can arise in the endgame. Using enneagram-like charts that fold upon themselves, the authors demonstrated that in this position, the most Black can hope for is a draw.
Although Duchamp was no longer considered to be an active artist, he continued to consult with artists, art dealers and collectors. From 1925 he often traveled between France and the United States, and made New York's Greenwich Village his home in 1942. He also occasionally worked on artistic projects such as the short film Anémic Cinéma (1926), Box in a Valise (1935–1941), Self Portrait in Profile (1958) and the larger work Étant Donnés (1946–1966). In 1943, he participated with Maya Deren in her unfinished film The Witch's Cradle, filmed in Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery.
In 1942, for the First Papers of Surrealism show in New York, surrealists called on Duchamp to design the exhibition. He created an installation, His Twine, commonly known as the 'mile of string', it was a three-dimensional web of string throughout the rooms of the space, in some cases making it almost impossible to see the works. Duchamp made a secret arrangement with an associate's son to bring young friends to the opening of the show. When the formally-dressed patrons arrived, they found a dozen children in athletic clothes kicking and passing balls, and skipping rope. When questioned, the children were told to say "Mr. Duchamp told us we could play here". Duchamp's design of the catalog for the show included "found", rather than posed, photographs of the artists.
Duchamp left a legacy to chess in the form of an enigmatic endgame problem he composed in 1943. The problem was included in the announcement for Julian Levi's gallery exhibition Through the Big End of the Opera Glass, printed on translucent paper with the faint inscription: "White to play and win". Grandmasters and endgame specialists have since grappled with the problem, with most concluding that there is no solution.
Between 1946 and 1951 Maria Martins was his mistress.
In 1954, he and Alexina "Teeny" Sattler married. They remained together until his death.
Many critics consider Duchamp to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and his output influenced the development of post–World War I Western art. He advised modern art collectors, such as Peggy Guggenheim and other prominent figures, thereby helping to shape the tastes of Western art during this period. He challenged conventional thought about artistic processes and rejected the emerging art market, through subversive anti-art. He famously dubbed a urinal art and named it Fountain. Duchamp produced relatively few artworks and remained mostly aloof of the avant-garde circles of his time. He went on to pretend to abandon art and devote the rest of his life to chess, while secretly continuing to make art. In 1958 Duchamp said of creativity,
Duchamp's influence on the art world remained behind the scenes until the late 1950s, when he was "discovered" by young artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, who were eager to escape the dominance of Abstract Expressionism. He was a co-founder of the international literary group Oulipo in 1960. Interest in Duchamp was reignited in the 1960s, and he gained international public recognition. In 1963, the Pasadena Art Museum mounted his first retrospective exhibition, and there he appeared in an iconic photograph playing chess opposite nude model Eve Babitz. The photograph was later described by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art as being "among the key documentary images of American modern art".
However, this was written in 1961 by fellow Dadaist Hans Richter, in the second person, i.e. "You threw the bottle-rack...". Although a marginal note in the letter suggests that Duchamp generally approved of the statement, Richter did not make the distinction clear until many years later.
The Tate Gallery hosted a large exhibit of his work in 1966. Other major institutions, including the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, followed with large showings of Duchamp's work. He was invited to lecture on art and to participate in formal discussions, as well as sitting for interviews with major publications. As the last surviving member of the Duchamp family of artists, in 1967 Duchamp helped to organize an exhibition in Rouen, France, called Les Duchamp: Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Marcel Duchamp, Suzanne Duchamp. Parts of this family exhibition were later shown again at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris.
In 1968, Duchamp and John Cage appeared together at a concert entitled "Reunion", playing a game of chess and composing Aleatoric music by triggering a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard.
The theme of the "endgame" is important to an understanding of Duchamp's complex attitude toward his artistic career. Irish playwright Samuel Beckett was an associate of Duchamp, and used the theme as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, Endgame. In 1968, Duchamp played an artistically important chess match with avant-garde composer John Cage, at a concert entitled "Reunion". Music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered sporadically by normal game play.
Duchamp in his later life explicitly expressed negativity toward art. In a BBC interview with Duchamp conducted by Joan Bakewell in 1968 he compared art with religion, saying that he wished to do away with art the same way many have done away with religion. Duchamp goes on to explain to the interviewer that "the word art etymologically means to do," that art means activity of any kind, and that it is our society that creates "purely artificial" distinctions of being an artist.
Until 1969 when the Philadelphia Museum of Art revealed Duchamp's Étant donnés tableau, The Large Glass was thought to have been his last major work.
On 17 November 1999, a version of Fountain (owned by Arturo Schwarz) was sold at Sotheby's, New York, for $1,762,500 to Dimitris Daskalopoulos, who declared that Fountain represented the origin of contemporary art. The price set a world record, at the time, for a work by Marcel Duchamp at public auction. The record has since been surpassed by a work sold at Christie's Paris, titled Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette (1921). The readymade of a perfume bottle in its box sold for a record $11.5 million (€8.9 million).
The Prix Marcel Duchamp (Marcel Duchamp Prize), established in 2000, is an annual award given to a young artist by the Centre Georges Pompidou. In 2004, as a testimony to the legacy of Duchamp's work to the art world, a panel of prominent artists and art historians voted Fountain "the most influential artwork of the 20th century".
Celebrating Marcel Duchamp's birthday. Wishing him all the best!
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