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Marcel Duchamp's Biography

 
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(Henri Robert) Marcel Duchamp was born on July 28, 1887 in Blainville, Cervon In Normandy. Marcel was the fourth of seven children.

Marcel Duchamp's two elder brothers became artists as did his eldest sister. As early as 1902 Marcel Duchamp was painting in the garden of the family home.

In 1904 Duchamp finished his studies at his secondary school, Ecole Bossuet, and joined his brothers in Paris. He studied at Academie Julian, but in October 1905 he spent a year in the army after volunteering for military service.

Marcel Duchamp started submitting paintings to exhibitions from 1907. For the next few years he exhibited at various galleries in Paris

Duchamp was obsessed by chess. Chess players, pieces and motifs are often represented in his art.

Marcel Duchamp's first painting with a chess theme was The Chess Game (1910), which featured his two brothers in the garden of his brother Jacques Villon (whose original name was Gaston Duchamp, but he changed it because of his enthusiasm for the French poet Francois Villon).

Duchamp said of The Chess Game:

"Another example of the influence of Cezanne is this game of chess, between my two brothers. Painted in the summer of 1910 in the garden of Puteaux where they lived, it was shown at the Salon d'Automne in October of the same year. the jury of the salon awarded me the title of 'Societaire' which gave me from then on the privilege to exhibit without passing through the jury. Curiously enough I never took advantage of this distinction ..."

The BBC has an interesting report on a chessboard created by Duchamp in 1946 going on sale in London in 2007.

In 1912, he painted the definitive version of Nude Descending a Staircase, which was to cause controversy the following year at the Armory Show in New York in 1913.

The work of Marcel Duchamp made fun of everyone, including himself. Nude Descending A Staircase appeared to be mocking Cubism.

Duchamp increasingly moved away from traditional painting and he experimented with a variety of forms. Most importantly, Duchamp is recognised as inventing "ready-made" art, where he presented everyday objects as works of art. This would have a huge impact upon many painters and sculptors for many years to come.

When World War I broke out, Marcel Duchamp was in Paris. He failed a medical exam for military service and he set sail for New York, arriving in June 1915.

Duchamp shocked the art world when he took the urinal, signed it and put it on display in 1917. In December 2004 this simple white gentlemen's urinal, Fountain, was named the most influential modern art work of all time in a poll of 500 art experts, beating Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) into second place.

In 2007 the urinal was attacked with a hammer when it at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It was left with a slight crack.

In 1918 Duchamp went to Buenos Aires, where he stayed for nine months. He played a great deal of chess, and whilst there he carved in wood his first and only set chessmen (although the knights were made by a local craftsman).

Marcel Duchamp returned to France in the summer of 1919 and was one of Dada's leading artists. He claimed that an object was art if an artist says it is (as witnessed by his 'Ready-Mades'. This was echoed by Picabia, who said "Art is, and can only be, the expression of contemporary life".

Picabia and Duchamp's ideas were a crucial influence on the pop art of the late 1950s and 1960s.

In 1919 Duchamp painted an exact replica of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa but with a small moustache added in. Duchamp's La Gioconde is emblematic of Dada's fun and shocking side. Entitled LHOOQ, apparently when said quickly in French this sounds like "she is hot in the derriere".

Duchamp went back to New York again in 1920. At some point (readers please forgive me I'm not quite sure when he completed it) Marcel Duchamp produced The Bride Stripped Bare by the Batchelors Even, known as The Large Glass, it took him eight years and stood 10 feet high.

Duchamp moved back to Paris in 1923. In 1925 he had his chances to become the French chess champion of France. He started well in the tournament, but blundered in a winning position against the eventual victor Crepeaux, and then, perhaps deflated, lost to Casier. Duchamp ended up sixth.

From the mid-1930s, Marcel Duchamp collaborated with the Surrealists. He settled permanently in New York in 1942, becoming a US citizen in 1955.

Marcel Duchamp died on October 2, 1968, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

 



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