Raymond Duchamp-Villon

Large Horse

1914, cast 1961

Not on display

Raymond Duchamp-Villon 1876–1918
Original title
Le Grand Cheval
Object: 1000 × 987 × 660 mm
Purchased 1978

Display caption

Duchamp-Villon was an expert horseman, serving as an auxiliary doctor in a cavalry regiment during the war. This sculpture developed from his studies of a leaping horse and rider to become an abstract evocation of dynamic energy and power. His work has been compared to that of the Futurists in the way it aims to capture a sense of motion. The tension between the mechanistic and the natural world echoes that between solid bronze and the representation of movement.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Raymond Duchamp-Villon 1876-1918

T02307 Le Grand Cheval (The Large Horse) 1914

Inscribed on base 'R. DUCHAMP-VILLON | 1914' and 'Susse Fondeur Paris'
Bronze, 39 3/8 x 38 7/8 x 26 (100 x 98.7 x 66)
Purchased at the Louis Carré sale through the Waddington and Tooth Galleries, London (Grant-in-Aid) 1978
Prov: Louis Carré, Paris (purchased from the artist's heirs 1961) Louis Carré sale, Palais d'Orsay, Paris, 27 April 1978, lot 21 repr.
Exh: Sculptures de Duchamp-Villon, Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, June-July 1963 (14, repr.); Apollinaire et le Cubisme, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille, April-May 1965 (23, repr.); Duchamp-Villon: Le Cheval Majeur, Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, June-December 1966 (not in catalogue)
Lit: Walter Pach, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Sculpteur (1876-1918) (Paris 1924), pp.12-15; Walter Pach, The Masters of the Modern Movement (London 1925), pp.86-7, 111-12; Walter Pach, Queer Thing, Painting (New York 1938), pp.144-6; George Heard Hamilton and William C. Agee, Raymond Duchamp-Villon 1876-1918 (New York 1967), pp.22-4, 86-103, repr. figs.65-8
Repr: Cahiers d'Art, 1931, p.227 (the plaster)

The 'Horse' was Duchamp-Villon's last major sculpture and is said by his American friend Walter Pach to have been begun about a year before the outbreak of the First World War, and to have been finished in the autumn of 1914. The two earliest surviving studies are of the traditional theme of a horse and rider, depicted at the moment of preparing to leap. From then on the rider was eliminated and the horse transformed stage by stage into an expression of dynamic machine power. The development encompassed five distinct stages, as well as at least five additional studies and scores of drawings, of which only two are known from photographs. The sculpture was already nearing completion when he enlisted in August 1914 as a medical under-officer in the 11th Regiment of Cuirassiers. As an officer in a cavalry regiment, he became an expert horseman and was able to use his greater knowledge of horses to make various adjustments to his work, which he finally completed during a period of leave.

The sculpture as left by him in the autumn of 1914, and as it remained at the time of his death, was only 44cm high and was still slightly sketchy in its handling. According to his brothers Jacques Villon and Marcel Duchamp he had intended to enlarge it, and two enlargements have been carried out since his death under their supervision. The first (this one), 100cm high, was made in 1930-1 under Villon's direction and was first exhibited in the Duchamp-Villon exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris in June 1931. The second, which is 150cm high and is usually known as 'Le Cheval Majeur' (The Larger Horse), was executed in 1966 under the supervision of Duchamp.

Mme Diane Foy (letter of 29 June 1978) adds that the bronze exhibited at the Galerie Pierre in 1931 was probably the one bought by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1937, and that Jacques Villon had a further plaster made from the original model in 1954 and asked Louis Carré to publish this work in an edition of six, plus one artist's cast. All the bronzes are now in museums, as follows:

1/6 Museum of Modern Art, New York
2/6 Museum of Sculpture in the Open Air 'Middelheim', Antwerp
3/6 Centre d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
4/6 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
5/6 Munson Williams Proctor Institute, Utica, NY
6/6 Art Institute of Chicago
artist's proof: Tate Gallery

The one now owned by the Tate was cast by Susse for Louis Carré himself in 1961 and remained in his private collection for the rest of his life.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.192-3, reproduced p.192

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