Futurism: room guide, room 4, Paris: Section d'Or

Raymond Duchamp-Villon, ‘Large Horse’ 1914, cast 1961
Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Large Horse 1914, cast 1961

Perhaps the Cubists most receptive to the arrival of Futurism were the Duchamp brothers: Jacques Villon, the sculptor Raymond Duchamp-Villon and the young Marcel Duchamp. They shared with their Italian colleagues a fascination with the machine age in all its manifestations. The perception of movement, developments in photography and the new possibilities of the x-ray were also key concerns. They recognised that these new visual technologies could reflect states of consciousness, as seen in Duchamp’s images of his brothers playing chess.

What distinguished the Duchamp brothers was their exploration of various forms of esoteric philosophy and mathematical speculations. They used the traditional Golden Section – a ratio associated with geometrical and aesthetic harmony since the Renaissance – as a means of controlling their abstracted compositions. Tellingly they chose this term for the Salon de la Section d’Or, the large Cubist exhibition gathered in October 1912. As one of the most forceful responses to the Italians’ exhibition earlier in the year, this Salon separated the Cubist investigation of structure from the ‘psychological’ aspects that they attributed to Futurism. Despite these differences, it was evident that Futurism had already stimulated a convergence of interests and developments with international repercussions.