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Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1919 – 2001

  • England, France 1947-53
  • Spain 1960, 1963-67

Personages 1971 Description: from plates for the book of prints ...IS... by Clifton Pugh, Frank Hodgkinson & Harry Roskolenko
Place made: Dunmoochin, Cottles Bridge, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper soft-ground etching and aquatint, printed in black and yellow inks by the oil viscosity method, from one plate Support: paper
Edition State: 1st state, second colour
Impression: artist's proof

Dimensions: 26.0 h x 20.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gordon Darling Australasian Print Fund 1999
Accession No: NGA 99.35
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from the artist, Kenthurst, NSW, April 1999.

Marcel Duchamp was born near Blainville in Normandy, France, on 28 July 1887. In 1904 he joined his two elder brothers in Paris. They had changed their names in response to their father's disapproval of their artistic careers; Gaston (b. 1875) called himself Jacques Villon and became a painter and engraver, while Raymond (b. 1876) assumed the partial pseudonym Duchamp-Villon and became a sculptor. Marcel studied painting at the Académie Julian until July 1905, and contributed cartoons to a variety of satirical magazines, including Le Courrier Français and Le Rire. In 1908 he moved to Neuilly, just outside Paris, where he remained until 1913. In 1909 he exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants. He attended artists' gatherings at his brothers' studio in Puteaux that included Albert Gleizes, Roger de la Fresnaye, Jean Metzinger, Fernand Léger, Guillaume Apollinaire and others. In 1912 he completed his most celebrated oil painting, Nude descending a staircase, first shown at the Cubist exhibition at the Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona in May. While in Munich for two months in the summer of 1912 Duchamp completed his first drawing on the theme of The bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even, a subject that was to preoccupy him for many years. In 1913 he abandoned traditional forms of picture-making in favour of an art based on the 'laws of chance'. He invented the concept of the Ready-made (called by that term from 1915), the elevation of commonplace objects to the realm of art by the act of the artist's selection, Nude descending a staircase was shown at the 'International Exhibition of Modern Art' (the armory show) in New York in 1913, and Duchamp was received as a celebrity when he arrived in the United States in June 1915. There he was befriended by Walter and Louise Arensberg who became life-long friends and supporters of his work. He continued to work on The bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even, better known as the Large glass, until 1923. In 1916 he helped establish the Society of Independent Artists in New York, and in 1920, with Katherine S. Dreier and Man Ray, he helped found the Société Anonyme In., the first American museum devoted exclusively to modern art. In 1920 Duchamp also devised the pseudonym 'Rose Sélavy'. 'Rose' was chosen as the most common of feminine names of the period - 'an awful name in 1920' and Sélavy' (c'est la vie) as a typical Duchampian pun. This feminine alter-ego lent her name henceforth to published puns and Read-mades. In 1923 Duchamp returned to Paris where he remained until 1942. It was generally believed that he had ceased making art to concentrate on chess. While never an official member of the Surrealist movement, he participated in the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, Paris, in 1938, and was included in the exhibition 'Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism' at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1936. His first solo exhibition was held at the Arts Club of Chicago in 1937. In 1942 he moved back to New York and from 1946 to 1966 worked secretly on Etant donnés, an environmental tableau later installed with his other works from the Arensberg Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1955 he became an American citizen. Major retrospectives of his work were organised at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1963 and at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1966. Duchamp died in Neuilly, France, on 2 October 1968.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra