Marcel Duchamp

Biographical Information
Marcel Duchamp (With Pipe) - Photo by John D. Schiff
Name

Marcel Duchamp

Birth

July 28, 1887, Blainville, Normandy, France

Death

October 2, 1968, Neuilly-sur-Seine (Paris), France

Country of Origin/Citizenship

France/ French

Kind of Artist/Cultural Worker

visual artist, painter, sculptor, and curator

Avant-Garde Movements Associated With

Dadaism, Surrealism

Date & Places of Overlap with Loy

Paris: 1904–1907, 1923–1936; New York: 1916-19, 1940s

A Dada pioneer and the most controversial of modern artists, Marcel Duchamp was born one of six siblings on July 28, 1887 in Normandy, France. At seventeen he followed his older brothers, Jacques Villon (painter) and Raymond Duchamp-Villon (Cubist sculptor) to Paris, where he studied painting at the Académie Julian from 1904–5 (Riggs). His cubist canvas Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 caused a critical stir in New York at the 1913 Armory Show, where Duchamp rejected European modernism as “finished—dead” (Kuenzli 2). From then on, he largely stopped painting in favor of collecting found objects and recombining them at random into works called “readymades,” in reference to their factory origins, challenging traditional cultural and artistic hierarchies by elevating ordinary objects to the status of art (Tomkins 297, MoMa).

In 1916 Mina Loy and Duchamp met at the Arensbergs’ New York salon, where Loy would sketch Duchamp’s impassive face but resisted what would have been an uncommitted, public relationship, calling him “slick as a prestidigitator” (Burke 218). In successive issues of The Blind Man, she praised his unbiased eye and defended the formal purity of his infamous, and “one of his best-known pieces,” Fountain (Riggs). Submitted to an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917, Fountain displays a urinal turned upside down, ensuing controversy. Duchamp also maintained an artistic rivalry with poet-boxer Arthur Cravan, who approached Loy at the Arensbergs’ costume ball while Duchamp was distracted with another woman. Cravan later became Loy’s second husband. In winter 1919 Duchamp fled wartime America for Buenos Aires with most of the Arensberg Circle crowd, but spent all his time playing chess, never meeting up with Loy. By 1923 both had relocated to Paris, where they often dined at sculptor Mariette Mills’ studio on the rue Boissonade. Additionally, thanks to Duchamp’s introductions, Loy’s daughter Joella married New York gallerist Julien Levy in 1927.

Duchamp’s friendship with Man Ray led to their publication of New York Dada in 1921. From 1913-1923 Duchamp furtively crafted a three-dimensional painting on “the surface of two large rectangular plates of glass” entitled, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, (La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même), most often called The Large Glass (Le Grand Verre) (Naumann 38). This artwork is over 9 feet tall, and freestanding incorporating materials such as lead foil, fuse wire, and dust. Meant to be accompanied by a book, “in order to prevent purely visual responses to it” (Tomkins 297), The Large Glass was exhibited in its “permanent state of incompletion” in 1926 at the Brooklyn Museum (Naumann 55). In New York during the 1940s, Loy and Duchamp sometimes ran into each other at Levy’s gallery, where Duchamp was a board member. For a special 1942 issue in Duchamp’s honor, The View reprinted Loy’s “O Marcel,” a compilation of Duchamp’s conversation first published in The Blind Man. He and Levy exhibited Loy’s Bowery constructions in 1959, the same year Duchamp arranged for Loy to receive the Copley Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Art.

Spending his last years in Paris, Duchamp remained an important modernist figure in the art world. He pursued an interest in experimental film and organized exhibitions, notably the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme in Paris in 1938. He was also a devoted and enthusiastic tournament chess player (Riggs). On one of his three excursions to America during this period, Duchamp’s first one-man exhibition was held at the Arts Club of Chicago in 1937 (Naumann 55). He died in October of 1968, on the outskirts of Paris.

Works Cited

Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1996.


Kuenzli, Rudolf E. New York Dada. Willis Locker & Owens, 1986.


Loy, Mina. “O Marcel – – – otherwise I Also Have Been to Louise’s,” The Blind Man, no. 2 (May 1917): 14–15. http://mlarchive.suzannechurchill.com/items/show/5. Accessed 26 June 2019.


“Marcel Duchamp and the Readymade.” MoMA Learning, n.d. https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada/marcel-duchamp-and-the-readymade/. Accessed 27 June 2019.


Naumann, Francis M. New York Dada, 1915-23. Abrams, 1994.


Riggs, Terry. “Marcel Duchamp, 1887–1968.” Tate, 1997. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/marcel-duchamp-1036. Accessed 27 June 2019.


“’The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)’, Marcel Duchamp, 1915-23, Reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6, Lower Panel Remade 1985.” Tate, www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/duchamp-the-bride-stripped-bare-by-her-bachelors-even-the-large-glass-t02011.


Tomkins, Calvin. Duchamp: a Biography. The Museum of Modern Art, 2014.


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