Marcel Duchamp: Multi Talented and Eccentric 1887-1968
Marcel Duchamp’s art was a major influence in 20th-century avant-garde art. Born on July 28, 1887, in Blainville, Marcel was the brother of artists: Raymond Duchamp-Villon and his half brother Jacques Villon. Duchamp began to paint in 1908. His work was considered very controversial and his total body of work was small but very influential.
Duchamp's early art works are in the Post-Impressionist style. Duchamp experimented with classical techniques and subjects, Cubism and Fauvism.
After painting several canvases in the mode of the day, Fauvism, Duchamp moved toward experimentation and the world of the avant-garde. He produced his famous piece, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (which is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art) in 1912; showing continuous movement through a string of overlapping cubistic figures, the painting caused a sensation at New York City's Armory Show.
In 1911, at Jacques Villon’s home in Puteaux, the brothers started a discussion group with local artists and writers: Picabia, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Roger de la Fresnaye, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Juan Gris, and Alexander Archipenko. The group came to be known as the Puteaux Group. Uninterested in the groups’ overall seriousness, Duchamp did not join in these discussions of Cubist theory. However, that same year he painted in a Cubist style, and added a sensation of motion by using repetitive imagery, as seen in The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors in 1923.
He seldom painted after 1915, until 1923 to when his masterpiece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (Philadelphia Museum of Art), an abstract work, also known as The Large Glass, was composed of oil and wire on glass. It was approved by the surrealist movement.
As a sculptor, Duchamp pioneered two artistic innovations of the 20th century: kinetic art and ready-made art. His ready-made artwork was made of mundane objects: a urinal (Fountain) or a bottle drying rack. Bicycle Wheel (Museum of Modern Art, New York City), is an example of kinetic art.
After 1923, Duchamp was content to let others develop the themes he had originated; his influence was already felt in the new movements of surrealism, Dadaism, and pop art. Duchamp was also a composer, master chess player, minor film actor, and he had an alter ego: Rrose Selavy, a woman.
Duchamp became an American citizen in 1955. He died in Paris in 1968.