Duchamp purchased the original Bottle dryer from the Parisian department store Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. In a letter to his sister Suzanne, written from New York in mid-January 1916, Duchamp mentioned the bottle dryer he had left behind in his Paris studio in rue Saint-Hippolyte, and stated, 'I had purchased this as a sculpture already made' ('comme une sculpture toute faite'), the first mention of the concept of the Ready-made.1 'You take for yourself this bottle dryer', Duchamp continued in his letter, 'I will make it a "Readymade" from a distance. You will have to write at the base and on the inside of the bottom ring in small letters painted with an oil-painting brush, in silver white colour, the inscription that I will give you after this, and you will sign it in the same hand as follows: / (after) Marcel Duchamp'.2
By the time Suzanne received this letter, however, she had probably already thrown out the bicycle wheel and the bottle dryer in the process of cleaning Duchamp's vacated studio. Duchamp purchased a replacement in Paris around 1921, which is now in the collection of Robert Lebel, Paris. A third version was purchased in 1945 by Man Ray, and Robert Rauschenberg purchased a fourth in New York in 1960. A fifth version was made by Ulf Linde for the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, in 1963. The example in the Australian National Gallery's collection is from an edition of eight produced by Galleria Schwarz, Milan, in 1964 under Duchamp's supervision. Two further examples from this edition were reserved for Duchamp and Arturo Schwarz.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.116.
- Duchamp, correspondence with Suzanne Duchamp, c. 15 January 1916; Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. For translation and commentary of this letter see Francis M. Naumann, 'Affecteusement, Marcel: Ten Letters from Marcel Duchamp to Suzanne Duchamp and Jean Crotti', Archives of the American Art Journal, vol. 22, no. 4, 1982, pp.2-19, p.5; and Francis M. Naumann, The Mary and William Sisler Collection, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1984, p.166.
- Duchamp, correspondence op. cit.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010