Marcel Duchamp French avant-garde painter

Marcel Duchamp Why not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy 1921
Why not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy 1921

Marcel Duchamp (born July 28, 1887 – died October 2, 1968) was a master of avant-garde art known for his outrageous artwork. The work of Marcel Duchamp challenged established traditions and was repeatedly discussed in the scandalous chronicle on both sides of the ocean. At the beginning of his journey, he painted pictures in the style of post-impressionism, paid tribute to Cubism and Fauvism, but then left painting and became interested in creating installations where he mixed techniques and used materials of various textures. The artist’s revolutionary ideas had a huge impact on the development of conceptual art of the 20th century.

Marcel Duchamp Self Portrait in Profile 1958
Self Portrait in Profile 1958

Marcel Duchamp became the third child in the family of a wealthy Parisian notary; he was born on July 28, 1887 in the Duchamp country estate in the small Norman village of Blainville. Parents approved of the children’s hobby for art, music and playing chess. Marcel and his brothers inherited the penchant for drawing – his maternal grandfather was a well-known graphic artist at one time.

Biography of Marcel Duchamp

By the age of fifteen, Marcel Duchamp mastered the technique and wrote good works in the manner of the Impressionists. After completing his studies in high school in 1904, the young artist decided to continue his education and went to Paris, where his older brothers had already left. In the capital, Marseille immediately plunged into the world of bohemia and did not devote enough time to preparing for exams. As a result, he was not accepted into the School of Fine Arts, and instead of studying, Duchamp went to the army for a year.

After demobilization, the young man rented a house in Neuilly, where he equipped himself a workshop. During this period, he worked as an illustrator for several French magazines, and in 1907 he exhibited his caricatures for the first time at the Salon of Satirists. The painter tossed between Fauvism and Cubism, tried himself in the classics. In 1908, through the mediation of his brother, he was able to make his way to the exhibition of the Paris Salon, where his work was enthusiastically appreciated by the enlightened public.

Marcel Duchamp 50 cc of Paris Air 1919
50 cc of Paris Air 1919

In 1912, the refusal of the leadership of the Salon of the Independent to accept one of the artist’s innovative works for the exhibition prompted Marcel Duchamp to look for his own paths in art. Starting the following year, he traveled extensively, lived in Munich, and in 1914 moved to the United States. By this time, the master had already enjoyed the fame of the most scandalous representative of modern painting, which was brought to him by his work “Nude Descending Stairs No. 2”, inspired by the method of chronophotography of the physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey.

Marcel Duchamp Apolinere Enamelled 1916
Apolinere Enamelled 1916

Fading out of creativity

In the United States, the artist was already well known, and art galleries vied with each other to offer Duchamp profitable cooperation. But the master’s interest in painting had already begun to fade by that time. In 1917, Duchamp performed his most famous outrageous act – he sent the installation “Fountain” to an exhibition of the community of independent artists, which was an ordinary porcelain urinal autographed by a fictional author.

Marcel Duchamp Disks Bearing Spirals 1923
Disks Bearing Spirals 1923

Marcel Duchamp finally abandoned artistic creativity after 1923 and devoted himself to participating in international chess tournaments. Secretly from the end of the 1940s, he worked for twenty years on his last and most significant work, “Given …”. The artist died of a heart attack on October 2, 1968 and was buried in the family crypt in Rouen.

Marcel Duchamp Network of Stoppages 1914
Network of Stoppages 1914

The most famous paintings by Marcel Duchamp

Paintings and installations by Marcel Duchamp occupy an honorable place in the collections of museums around the world. The master became the founder of the late avant-garde, postmodernism and pop art, he strove to create his own artistic language, where there was nothing from the experience of his predecessors. Duchamp set himself the goal of conveying his view of the world to the viewer, and his works still evoke a warm emotional response from connoisseurs of the avant-garde.

Marcel Duchamp Fountain 1917
Fountain 1917
Notable works by Duchamp:

“Sonata” (1911) – the characters of the picture are the artist’s mother and his sisters, depicted with hard and clear lines typical of Cubism. Duchamp, on the other hand, called his cubist works “a free variation on themes suggested by the innovators of painting.”

The Big Glass (1915-1923) is a collage of two glass panels, foil, wire and dust. The geometric composition in the upper part, as conceived by the artist, is the “bride” that the “bachelors” gathered at the bottom lust for. At the last stage of the work, the glass broke, but the master decided that the cracks were completing the installation.

L.H.O.O.Q (1919) – a provocative work, overthrowing a recognized masterpiece from the pedestal, was indignantly received by the townsfolk, and then copied many times in various interpretations by representatives of the avant-garde.

“Given …” (1946-1966) is a fundamental creation of Duchamp. The viewer sees the painting through one of the holes in the old wooden door. When creating the composition, the artist used velvet, leather, brick, wooden branches, and a gas lamp. Thanks to the successful combination of parts, the master managed to achieve a realistic image.

Nine malice moulds 1915
Nine malice moulds 1915
Rotary demisphere 1924
Rotary demisphere 1924
Rotorelief n°11 - Total Eclipse Rotorelief n°12 - White spiral 1935
Rotorelief n°11 – Total Eclipse Rotorelief n°12 – White spiral 1935
Sixteen Miles of String ( installation for 'The First Papers of Surrealism' exhibition) 1942
Sixteen Miles of String ( installation for ‘The First Papers of Surrealism’ exhibition) 1942
Table clock 1920-1940
Table clock 1920-1940
With Hidden Noise 1916
With Hidden Noise 1916

Duchamp created his works from the most unexpected materials and common household items. By combining various techniques, he achieved an amazing depth of artistic images. Eccentric works were enthusiastically received by the public, and avant-garde artists considered the masters to be their informal leader. Despite a relatively small artistic heritage, Duchamp is considered one of the most significant figures in the art of the twentieth century.

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