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June 21, 2011

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp began his career in 1909 at the Salon des Ind├ępendants, and by 1912 he had progressed quickly through Impressionist, Fauvist, and Expressionist phases to arrive at a form of what was called Cubist Futurism. He created "Nude Descending a Staircase", one of his most successful works in 1913. Duchamp settled in New York and earned his living giving French lessons, preferring his personal freedom rather than being tied down to orders for paintings. Duchamp and others met and their common ideals sparked the Dada movement (1915-22), based on principles of inversion, negation, and anti-aestheticism, and a rebellion of international scope against contemporary morality and the senselessness of war. Duchamp often scoffed at the ‘seriousness’ of art and once entered a urinal that he called ‘Fountain’ in an art show. He was both surprised and somewhat miffed that the urinal won an award. Between 1915 and 1923, Duchamp worked leisurely on his masterpiece, "The Bride Undressed by Her Bachelors". When the painting was completed, Duchamp laid down his brush and did not paint again, as he felt it was wrong to repeat himself. Duchamp's paintings are psychologically meaningful, humorous, and curiously disquieting, with witty punning titles. Although Duchamp had given up painting, his influence on the Dadaists was enormous, and he continued to exert influence upon all forms of contemporary art. In fact, Duchamp has become a legend in himself: a man with a brilliant mind, a sense of humor, and a spirit of freedom. His death occurred in Paris, in October of 1968.

Duchamp enjoyed art but did not take it too seriously. He played around with it, mocked it, but at the same time created some classic works. When we follow any kind of practice, we must be careful not to get too religious in a day. Such fervor often leads to a myopic view of things. We must be serious, yet not fanatical about things. Everything in moderation.