Raymond Duchamp-Villon

The Lovers

1913, posthumous cast

Not on display

Raymond Duchamp-Villon 1876–1918
Original title
Les Amants
Object: 673 × 997 × 121 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960

Display caption

From around 1910, Duchamp-Villon began to rethink his approach to sculpture in the wake of Cubism. At the same time, he felt that modern art should be rooted in the art of the past and he often incorporated traditional motifs in his work. The male and female figures in this relief were based on a relief by the contemporary classical sculptor Aristide Malliol. Duchamp-Villon reworked the composition through four distinct versions, culminating in these radically simplified figures.

Gallery label, June 2009

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

Raymond Duchamp-Villon 1876-1918

T00371 Les Amants (The Lovers) 1913

Inscribed 'Duchamp Villon 2/8' b.r., 'Louis Carre | Editeur' on l. side and '.Georges Rudier. | .Fondeur. Paris.' r. side
Lead low-relief, 26 3/4 x 39 3/8 x 5 1/8 (68 x 100 x 13)
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960
Prov: Friends of the Tate Gallery (purchased from the Galerie Louis Carré, Paris)
Exh: Pioneers of Modern Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, London, July-September 1973 (204, repr.)
Lit: Sculptures de Duchamp-Villon (exh. catalogue), Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, June-July 1963, p.22, repr. p.23; George Heard Hamilton and William C. Agee, Raymond Duchamp-Villon 1876-1918 (New York 1967), No.21, pp.19-20, 76, 79, bronze repr. fig.54

This sculpture is the best-known and most complex of Duchamp-Villon's reliefs, and was first exhibited in plaster at the Salon d'Automne in November 1913 as 'Bas-relief (plaster)', then subsequently several times in the artist's lifetime as 'The Lovers' 1913. As William C. Agee has pointed out: 'The theme is one of the many traditional motifs he drew on in his conscious effort to secure the roots of modern art within the long heritage of the past. It has references in classical mythology, Renaissance art and in the erotic themes of Rodin. More specifically, it is directly dependent on Maillol's 1904 relief, "Desire" (Museum of Modern Art, New York). The male and female figures are reversed, but the main lines of force and the formal accents provide the compositional elements which Duchamp-Villon transformed into a sequence of drastically condensed Cubist incisions.'

The end product of an intensive process of revision, this the final state was preceded by four distinct preliminary stages in which various adjustments were made to the figures and the spatial frame. The version reproduced in the monograph by Walter Pach, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Sculpteur 1876-1918 (Paris 1924), p.63 is the plaster of the penultimate state, now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in which the figures are very similar but the hollowed-out area around them is more extensive.

Mme Diane Foy of Editions Louis Carré et Cie writes (23 March 1978) that this cast was made from the plaster formerly in the possession of Jacques Villon. According to information received from him, there was no cast in bronze or lead in existence before Louis Carré began to publish this work in 1952. The casting was done by arrangement with Jacques Villon, representing the heirs of Duchamp-Villon, and the sculpture was to be cast in bronze and lead in two editions of eight. There were no additional proofs, artist's casts, etc.

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.191-2, reproduced p.191

You might like