Duchamp is truly one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. At the same time,
his persona and oeuvre is full of paradoxes and sensation; yet, everything he
had done is brilliant from many points of view. His works always had few levels
of apprehension, tricks and jokes, all of that had forecasted the rise of the whole postmodern era.
article we will get acquainted with his most famous and controversial pieces,
as well as with interesting facts from his life.
Duchamp is associated with numerous art movements; he was interested in Fauvism, Cubism, Dada, Surrealism; he experimented with kinetic art, sculpture, cinematography,
and music. But Duchamp always kept the distance and did not officially join any of the artistic groups. His
wide range of interests was quite amusing and much ahead of the
multidisciplinary tendencies in the contemporary art nowadays.
his sense of humor
student years, particularly studying at the Académie Julian, Duchamp had been
interested in word and visual puns, featuring different languages and up to
date references. He has carried the love for humor through all of his life,
and this hobby of his changed the art world forever. For example, Duchamp’s famous
that has appropriated another masterpiece Mona Lisa. The name of the painting
pronounced in French as “Elle a chaud au cul” (English: “There’s fire down below”),
and plays a phonetic trick on a viewer. And, of course, the mustache on Mona
Lisa’s face! Such prank on, basically, an art icon is a vivid example of Marcel Duchamp’s character. He introduced irony and dark humor to the art
world, also making an accent on appropriation, thus on the rethinking of the
perception of the traditional art heritage.
Duchamp was so fond of chess, that he even had quit art in the sake of this game.
He became a chess master and took part in the Chess Olympiad and French
national competitions. He studied chess
throughout all his life and this passion for such complex game reveals Duchamp
as a great strategist and mastermind. “I am still a victim of chess. It has
all the beauty of art – and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is
much purer than art in its social position”, he said.
just as many of his artistic friends was involved in the experiments with new exciting medium – cinematography. Together with Man Ray and Marc Allégret, he
created a film Anémic Cinéma based on his animated drawings called Rotoreliefs. Rotoreliefs
consisted of verbal puns with the references to some classic pieces of
literature, and spinning disks that appeared as 3-dimensional. Within this film
we can observe all basic elements of the cinematographic work: movement, steadiness, direct
and indirect sense of the text and plot, 2-d and 3-d dynamics, rhythm etc. He
created the movie about a movie that captures the essence of all motion pictures.
Duchamp signed this film as Rrose Sélavy which is our next point of discussion.
his alter ego
Duchamp, as have been mentioned before, was very much into humor and intellectual
games and puns. He had created various pseudonyms and alter egos, but the most
famous of them is Rrose Sélavy. The name is actually a word pun. In French it
is pronounced as “Eros, c’est la vie”, which can be translated as “Eros, that’s life”;
in case of reading the name as “arroser
la vie”, it is translated as “to make a toast to life.” Duchamp used this character
to sign some of his works, he also posed as Rrose Sélavy for some
when talking about Duchamp, one cannot simply forget about his notable
contribution to art known as readymade. Readymades are found objects that have been withdrawn
from a real life and are supposed to be seen and recognized in different
perspectives. One of the most famous readymades is Fountain, created in 1917. This rebellious
work is an actual urinal, turned upside-down and signed “R. Mutt.” The
signature is a puzzling word play, which has never been explained precisely. In
2004 Fountain was considered as the most
influential art work of the 20th century. Duchamp had deconstructed the aesthetic perception
of art and its sacred image. He put a real life in the limelight, thereby
opening new horizons for pop-art and conceptual art. He also continued Malevich’s
intention to shift the focus from the objective perception to the intellectual interpretation
of art. But Duchamp did it with a great deal of irony and scandal.