Dada Before Dada (1887 - 1976)

01.12.11: Biography - All Images © Estate of Marcel Duchamp

"Duchamp's the grandfather of modern art but then again he's not." - Paul Page

Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was born July 28, 1887, near Blainville, France. In 1904, he joined his artist brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, in Paris, where he studied painting at the Académie Julian until 1905. Duchamp’s early works were Post-Impressionist in style. He exhibited for the first time in 1909 at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne in Paris. His paintings of 1911 were directly related to Cubism [more] but emphasized successive images of a single body in motion. In 1912, he painted the definitive version of Nude Descending a Staircase; this was shown at the Salon de la Section d’Or of that same year and subsequently created great controversy at the Armory Show in New York in 1913.

Duchamp’s radical and iconoclastic ideas predated the founding of the Dada movement in Zurich in 1916. By 1913, he had abandoned traditional painting and drawing for various experimental forms, including mechanical drawings, studies, and notations that would be incorporated in a major work, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915–23; also known as The Large Glass).

In 1914, Duchamp introduced his readymades—common objects, sometimes altered, presented as works of art—which had a revolutionary impact upon many painters and sculptors. In 1915, Duchamp traveled to New York, where his circle included Katherine Dreier and Man Ray, with whom he founded the Société Anonyme in 1920, as well as Louise and Walter Arensberg, Francis Picabia, and other avant-garde figures.

1919 to the End: Chess And Extreme Nihilism

After playing chess avidly for nine months in Buenos Aires, Duchamp returned to France in the summer of 1919 and associated with the Dada group in Paris. In New York in 1920, he made his first motor-driven constructions and invented Rrose Sélavy, his feminine alter ego. Duchamp moved back to Paris in 1923 and seemed to have abandoned art for chess but in fact continued his artistic experiments.

From the mid-1930s, he collaborated with the Surrealists and participated in their exhibitions. Duchamp settled permanently in New York in 1942 and became a United States citizen in 1955.

During the 1940s, he associated and exhibited with the Surrealist émigrés in New York, and in 1946 began Etant donnés: 1. la chute d’eau 2. le gaz d’éclairage, a major assemblage on which he worked secretly for the next 20 years.

He died October 2, 1968, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

01.12.11: Biography II - The Banality of Words

The century's most influential artist. One of the giants of the twentieth century, Marcel Duchamp changed the course of modern art. Visual arts, music, dance, performance--nothing was ever the same again because he had shifted art's focus from the retinal to the mental. Duchamp sidestepped the banal and sentimental to find the relationship between symbol and object and to unearth the concepts underlying art itself.

Never mind art, would the world be the same if Duchamp hadn't been part of it? Would we see what we can achieve, what we could be, the same way if he hadn't produced Fountain? Everything in front of has possibilities, everything can lead us on. We don't need the technical skill that so few have to achieve what we want to achieve. Or wat we don't want to achieve.

Duchamp gave us a way into art, into modern life. Before him we had no key.

He signed it 'R. Mutt' nearly 100 years ago and yet the signature could have been written yesterday.

01.12.11: Images

Images © Estate of Marcel Duchamp

From time to time some of the images below are available as prints at It's a good place to start your collection of Duchamp posters and prints. Anything obscure and for the completist then you have to look elsewhere but for the popular prints then this is the place. More details @

Marcel Duchamp signed items @ (direct link to signed items)

Fountain - 1917 (Detail)

marcel duchamp
© Estate of Marcel Duchamp

L.H.O.O.Q. (Mona Lisa with Moustache) (Detail)

marcel duchamp
© Estate of Marcel Duchamp

Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau, 2° le gaz d'éclairage . . . - 1966 (Detail)

marcel duchamp
© Estate of Marcel Duchamp


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Man Ray

A name interchangable with the name Marcel Duchamp is here.

Rene Magritte

The bowler-hat Surrealist man is here.

Salvador Dali

The avida dollars Surrealist man is here.

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