Who Are They?

Who is Marcel Duchamp?

Can everyday objects be art? What about your kettle, sink or... even your toilet?

Marcel Duchamp, ‘Fountain’ 1917, replica 1964
Marcel Duchamp
Fountain 1917, replica 1964
Tate
© Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

the basics about duchamp

Marcel Duchamp grew up in Normandy, France. He loved drawing cartoons, playing chess and inventing games. He went on to study art in Paris and at first he was a painter. His early pictures were inspired by artists such as Picasso who were really wowing the city with their unusual paintings.

Duchamp and the dada movement

Dada? Sounds pretty gaga - and the movement was just this! It was all about being silly and poking fun at the art world. In one of his pictures, Duchamp scribbled a beard and moustache on to a photograph of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting the Mona Lisa.

Do you sometimes like to scribble silly beards and moustaches on faces that appear in newspapers and magazines? If so, you're being Dada!

Marcel Duchamp, ‘3 stoppages étalon (3 Standard Stoppages)’ 1913–14, replica 1964
Marcel Duchamp
3 stoppages étalon (3 Standard Stoppages) 1913–14, replica 1964
Tate
© Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

Dada artists wanted to challenge the art world and break the rules! The movement began in Switzerland during the First World War, and continued when many of the artists involved moved to New York.

Readymade Art

As the name suggests, it's art that is ready-made! However, these were not artwork like paintings or drawings. The "readymades" that Duchamp made from 1913 included a bottle rack, a wheel from a bicycle and a metal snow shovel. These were works that were "made" already – he did not need to create them with his own hands, like a traditional sculptor.

The pieces Duchamp made definitely challenged people to think about art in new ways!

Marcel Duchamp, ‘Fresh Widow’ 1920, replica 1964
Marcel Duchamp
Fresh Widow 1920, replica 1964
Tate
© Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

Look at the picture of the door above- in an art gallery it is art but in a door shop... well it's another door!

What do you think it is? A door, art or both?

It's interesting how the different places we find objects can influence the way we look at the objects. Look around your house. What objects could you imagine putting in a gallery and why?

Three ways that Duchamp changed the art world

Marcel Duchamp, ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)’ 1915–23, reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965–6, lower panel remade 1985
Marcel Duchamp
The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) 1915–23, reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965–6, lower panel remade 1985
Tate
© Estate of Richard Hamilton and Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
  1. By making art from everyday objects. Doors and toilets are only just the beginning!
  2. By creating unusual ways of showing art in a gallery – he hung sacks of coal from the ceiling, and filled a room with string that was wound around so thickly that it was hard to get through!
  3. By making many copies of work he’d made before.

Duchamp really was an intriguing guy!

Fancy more art facts and activities like this? Check out Modern Art Journal by Mary Richards.

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