Biography of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

French artist, inspired from his numerous avant-garde independent stance, born on July 28, 1887 in Blainville, in Normandy, in the bosom of a family belonging to the bourgeoisie illustrated, interested in letters, arts, music and chess. Under the influence of his maternal grandfather, who was a prolific engraver, also his brothers Jacques Villon, Duchamp Villon and Suzanne, they follow the path of art.

Le Passage de la Vierge à la Mariée (oil on canvas, 1912). Museum of modern art (New York).

Towards 1902 he/she made his first paintings. They are more or less impressionistic landscapes of his people. In 1904, he/she moved to Paris and settles with his brother Jacques Villon in Montmartre; He/She is interested in illustration and satirical drawing, collaborating in several publications. From the outset keeps enough reservations toward the idea of embarking on the Parisian artistic currents of the time. Between 1906 and 1911 his painting floats between different Fauvist and Cubist ideas. In these years exhibited in several editions of the Salon des Artistes Humoristes, the Salon d'Automne, Salon des Indépendants and at the Norman society of modern painting exhibitions. The Braque exhibition at Gallery Kahnweiler in 1908, the publication of the Futurist manifesto de Marinetti in 1909 and his friendship with Picabia, who known in 1910, have great influence on their stage of formation. Picabia une you dislike repetition, contempt for the temporality and the use of irony, which accelerate the desteorizacion of his work by way of sarcasm.

In 1911, in the study of his brothers in Puteaux, held frequent meetings they attend, in addition to the Duchamp, Kupka, Gleizes, Léger, Roger the Fresnaye, Metzinger, Raynald, etc. Playing chess, one of the great passions that, professionally, Duchamp will exercise all my life, and not Euclidean, speaks of the pictorial space, geometry of the golden section, chronophotography and the fourth dimension. It is a decisive for his later production year because you experience with the Cubist decomposition (Les Joueurs d' échecs), with the movement (Jeune homme sad dans a train) and the theme of the machine appears (Moulin a coffee).

In the spring of 1912 he/she presents, at the Salon des indépendants, which will be one of his best known works; It's Nu descendant an escalier. You have to remove at the suggestion of the Committee, but the following year, this work obtained a resounding success at the Armory Show in New York. The Nu... acquires an emblematic value, as between two performances will forge final tie break in the personal and creative. He/She begins to invent a new way of seeing the painting. Feels great discomfort to the traditional support of the fabric. For its creator the Nu... is a real achievement, a kind of Cubist interpretation of a futuristic formula. What is targeted is "a static image of the movement" (Duchamp).

In 1912 with Apollinaire and Picabia attends the representation of the play Impressions d'Afrique, Raymond Roussel. He/She is fascinated by the theatre of the absurd and the ironic attitude of the author towards the machine. In that same year, a two month stay in Munich gives rise to his full release and Duchamp decided to devote himself to the development of the plan of a work, accumulation of many others, that will take you long. In Munich made Vierge n.1, Vierge n.2, Le Passage de la Vierge a la Mariée and Mariée. The themes of the great glass begin in this series.

Back in Paris, take a post of librarian in Sainte Genevieve, where lee treated in perspective, demonstrating with this decision its attitude of abandonment of any haste and the rejection of the idea of cumulative production.

In 1913, at the Armory Show in New York, Duchamp is present with four works, which are all of them acquired by major American collectors. The exhibition happens to Chicago and Boston. The Nu... centralizes most of the criticisms and this makes him famous in the United States. In this same year he/she makes an object with a bicycle wheel on a stool that is the precedent of the Ready-Mades and rotating machines. Write notes that will be part of the box of 1914 and la boîte Verte de 1934.

In 1914 he/she performed his first work on glass: nurseries contenant a moulin à eau in metaux voisins, buy a bottle dryer and signs it as a work of art. After pop the first world war, in August 1915, he/she moved to New York. Installed in the House of marriage Arensberg, who will be friends, protectors and major collectors of his work. It participates in the evenings which take place at the Arensberg home, where related to the world of the most heterodox art. In them he/she met Man Ray. Inscribed in a shovel In Advance of the Broken Arm and invents the term readymade to define these objects that had already made in France. "With its brutal immediacy the Ready-Mades, constitute an ethical and aesthetic Declaration and a complex and deterrent creative approach of all Convention. They represent an iconoclastic desire against the conventional art, they do not have any explanation, except its content of aggressive demystification. They are Automation that thrives on irony, in terms of the decontextualization of the object, and random, in relation to the scheduling of the election process. Importantly in its creation is immediacy, an ultra-fast delay, that disconnects and extracted the object of conventional identity and classification"(Moure). In 1968, will say: "is paradoxical, almost schizophrenic. "On the one hand working in a form of very intellectual activity, on the other desmitificaba all through more materialistic thoughts".

In 1917 is a founding member of the Society of Independent Artists Inc. organized an exhibition that presents Fontaine, the famous urinal, which, to be rejected, caused the resignation of Duchamp and Arensberg. It publishes with Beatrice Wood and H.P. Roche The Blindman, a Dadaist cut magazine. This trio of people, along with Arthur Cravan and Picabia, constitute what is called after the New York Dada.

In 1918 made his last picture painted, it's your m', which it had been commissioned by K.S. Dreier. This year begins the realization of la Mariée mise à nu par ses celebatieres, meme, known as the large glass.

Upon entering the war the United States decides to embark to Buenos Aires, where he/she remained nine months and becomes a professional chess player. At the end of July 1919 he/she returns to Europe and settles in house of Picabia. It puts a moustache and beard to the Mona Lisa and entitles it L.H.O.O.Q., that spelled in French has the same sense of an obscene phrase (Elle a chaud au cul).

Back to New York in 1920 built its first optical machine: Rotative Plaque de Verre, which is photographed by Man Ray. With K.S.Dreier and Man Ray created the Société Anonyme Inc., which was the first Museum of modern art in the world, and organized numerous exhibitions, conferences and publications. Adopts the pseudonym of Rose Selavy (Eros c' c'est la vie). Work continues in the great glass. The following year, return to Paris, it adds an erre to Rrose Sélavy to sign a picture of Picabia and attends Breton, Soupault and Aragon, Eluard, Peret and Crevel, the dadaists who will soon form the surrealist group.

In the summer of 1922 he/she published in issue 5 of Littérature some word games signed by Rrose Sélavy and Breton published the first major critical essay on Duchamp in the same number. Back in New York, in 1923, decides to give by definitively unfinished great glass. He/She spends most of the year between Brussels and Paris, dedicated to chess. During the following year involved in the film by Picabia and René Claire, with music by Satie, Entr'acte, which appears playing chess with Man Ray. Appears the manifesto of surrealism, which is cited. At the end of 1926 is shown to the public for the first time great glass, in the exhibition organized by the Société Anonyme Inc., at the Brooklyn Museum. "This work, the most important of Duchamp, is the paradigm of his self-assertion, of his distancing subjective conventional painting and art and the current plastic organized around a theory. Together with the works and the documentation accompanying it, constitutes an anthology of Duchamp thought"(Moure). The plurality of meanings of the work opens up a spectrum of interpretations, ranging from those which attribute a specific symbolic allusion to those that believe it an intervention in the intrinsic powers of graphic language. Breton noted the coldness with which the love theme, as the exacerbation to the limit of the estrangement of man who believes respect is the man who suffers, advocated by T.S. Elliot; on the other hand points out that in the glass beads is dissociate symmetrically, with both the rational and the irrational.

In May 1936 he/she returned to United States to repair the great glass. Duchamp is already a consecrated figure, despite his scant production in recent years. However, two years ago, he/she had retaken their own artistic activity with the idea of making the Boite-en-Valise, a box where to meet, in miniature, the greater part of his work.

His first solo exhibition was held at the Arts Club of Chicago in 1937; ten paintings of 1911-1912 are exhibited. In 1938 he/she organized in Paris the international exhibition of surrealism; a part of the exhibition consisted of the most beautiful streets of Paris, a surrealist streets populated by mannequins manipulated by different artists. The Duchamp takes hat, American and a red light. This Assembly is one of the most direct precedents of the environments of the sixties.

In the following years his work is present in various exhibitions. His accomplishments as an artist are to installations and decorations, except the works that are already aimed at Ettant donnés: 1 la chute d'Eau, 2 le gaz d' éclairage, beginning in 1944, and which will work secretly for more than twenty years. The Arensberg, shortly before his death in 1949, had bequeathed his collection (with thirty works of Marcel Duchamp), to the Philadelphia Museum, where together with the large glass and Etant donnés, is the largest collection of works by Duchamp.

The American nationality acquired in 1955 and began working in the landscape of Étant donnés... In 1966 the Tate Gallery in London shows The Almost Complete Work of Marcel Duchamp, the first European retrospective of his work. Étant donnés... is presented to the public, after the death of Duchamp, in the Philadelphia Museum, in 1969. Its apparent retreat in full international recognition was, as Octavio Paz, designates "a silence of open quality". "Duchamp never written art or artist, only a type of them: the settlers on the certainty" (Moure).

Eroticism transformed into glass and exacerbated in Étant donnés (...)" It is the corollary of all the poetry of conocimiento-creencia that is filtered through two works"(Moure). In the opinion of Duchamp, the erotic Act is a "four-dimensional quintessential situation". Octavio Paz says that "eroticism is a condition of clairvoyance (...) and this (...) voyeurism transformed by the imagination; desire to become knowledge".

Marcel Duchamp died on October 2, 1968 in Neully. "My art would be to live; "every second, every sigh is a work of art that is not registered anywhere, which is neither visual nor brain, but that, however, there is" (Marcel Duchamp).


Duchamp, (Madrid: catalogue Exposition Foundation pension, 1984).