The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Dada and Surrealism

Who was Marcel Duchamp?

Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) was one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking artists of the twentieth century. He experimented with Cubism, Futurism, and championed Dada during an ever-changing and provocative career. Duchamp continually questioned artistic convention at the most fundamental levels—even the definition of a work of art. During his early career, he created the iconic Nude Descending 212 the Staircase, No. 2 (1912), which shocked viewers and critics at the Armory Show in New York in 1913, though it garnered him a great deal of fame. The work blended Cubist and Futurist styles in its abstract depiction of the moving human form.

Duchamp is most closely associated with Dada and Surrealism. One of his most complicated works was 1915’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, more commonly referred to as The Large Glass. The piece is large, and made of two panels of glass suspended with wire. It is divided into two halves; the top half is the “bride’s domain” while aggressive bachelors dominate below. Highly enigmatic, despite many notes left by Duchamp as to its meaning, some critics believe the work is a commentary on art criticism itself. Duchamp’s ground-breaking and complex approach to art continues to impact the art world into the twenty-first century.


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