Marcel Duchamp

(Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp)

Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp
  • Born: July 28, 1887
  • Died: October 2, 1968
  • Nationality: French, American
  • Profession: Artist

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Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was a French-American painter, sculptor, chess player, and writer whose work is associated with Cubism, Dada, and conceptual art. He was careful about his use of the term Dada and was not directly associated with Dada groups. Duchamp is commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, as one of the three artists who helped to define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture. Duchamp has had an immense impact on twentieth-century and twenty first-century art, and he had a seminal influence on the development of conceptual art. By World War I, he had rejected the work of many of his fellow artists (such as Henri Matisse) as "retinal" art, intended only to please the eye. Instead, Duchamp wanted to use art to serve the mind.

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A game of chess is a visual and plastic thing, and if it isn't geometric in the static sense of the word, it is mechanical, since it moves. It's a drawing; it's a mechanical reality.
A painting that doesn't shock isn't worth painting.
Alchemy is a kind of philosophy: a kind of thinking that leads to a way of understanding.
All painting, beginning with Impressionism, is antiscientific, even Seurat. I was interested in introducing the precise and exact aspect of science, which hadn't often been done, or at least hadn't been talked about very much. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Art doesn't interest me. Only artists interest me. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Art is a habit-forming drug. Art has absolutely no existence as veracity, as truth. People always speak of it with this great, religious reverence, but why should it be so revered? Truth ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Art is all a matter of personality. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
'Art or anti-art?' was the question I asked when I returned from Munich in 1912 and decided to abandon pure painting or painting for its own sake. I thought of introducing elements alien to painting as the only way out of a pictorial and chromatic dead end. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Artists of all times are like the gamblers of Monte Carlo, and this blind lottery allows some to succeed and ruins others. In my opinion, neither the winners nor the losers are worth worrying about.
Can works be made which are not 'of art'? Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Chess can be described as the movement of pieces eating one another.
Dada was an extreme protest against the physical side of painting. It was a metaphysical attitude.
Distortion came first from the fauves, who, in turn, were under the strong influence of primitive art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Everything important that I have done can be put into a little suitcase.
For me, the 'Three Stoppages' was a first gesture liberating me from the past.
From a purely ethnological point of view, I was not a period-born Dada.
Gravity is not controlled physically in us by one of the 5 ordinary senses. We always reduce a gravity experience to an autocognizance, real or imagined, registered inside us in the region of the stomach.
Humor and laughter - not necessarily derogatory derision - are my pet tools. This may come from my general philosophy of never taking the world too seriously - for fear of dying of boredom. Humor
I am afraid to end up being in need to sell canvases - in other words, to be a society painter. Society
I am against the word 'anti' because it's a little bit like 'atheist,' as compared to 'believer.' And an atheist is just as much of a religious man as the believer is.
I am interested in ideas, not merely in visual products.
I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art - and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I became a librarian at the Sainte-Genevieve Library in Paris. I made this gesture to rid myself of a certain milieu, a certain attitude, to have a clean conscience, but also to make a living. I was twenty-five. I had been told that one must make a living, and I believed it.
I came to feel an artist might use anything - a dot, a line, the most conventional or unconventional symbol - t say what he wanted to say.
I couldn't go into the haphazard drawing or the paintings, the splashing of paint. I wanted to go back to a completely dry drawing, a dry conception of art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I didn't abandon everything at a moment's notice - on the contrary. I returned to France from America, leaving the 'Large Glass' unfinished.
I don't believe in art. I believe in artists. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I happen to have been born a Cartesian. The French education is based on a sequence of strict logic. You carry it with you. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.
I haven't been in the Louvre for twenty years. It doesn't interest me because I have these doubts about the value of the judgments which decided that all these pictures should be presented to the Louvre instead of others which weren't even considered.
I like living, breathing better than working... Each second, each breath is a work which is inscribed nowhere, which is neither visual nor cerebral. It's a kind of constant euphoria. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I never finished the 'Large Glass' because, after working on it for eight years, I probably got interested in something else; also, I was tired. It may be that, subconsciously, I never intended to finish it because the word 'finish' implies an acceptance of traditional methods and all the paraphernalia that accompany them.
I really had no program or any established plan. I didn't even ask myself if I should sell my paintings or not.
I refused to accept anything, doubted everything. So, doubting everything, I had to find something that had not existed before, something I had not thought of before. Any idea that came to me, the thing would be to turn it around and try to see it with another set of senses.
I shy away from the word 'creation.' In the ordinary, social meaning of the word - well, it's very nice, but fundamentally, I don't believe in the creative function of the artist. He's a man like any other.
I wanted to use my possibility to be an individual, and I suppose I have, no?
I was highly attracted to chess for forty or forty-five years; then, little by little, my enthusiasm lessened.
I was never interested in looking at myself in an aesthetic mirror. My intention was always to get away from myself, though I knew perfectly well that I was using myself. Call it a little game between 'I' and 'me.'
I would have to think about it for two or three months before I decided to do something which would have meaning. And it would have to be more than just an impression or pleasure. I would need an objective, a meaning. That is the only thing that could help me.
If only America would realize that the art of Europe is finished - dead - and that America is the country of the art of the future, instead of trying to base everything she does on European traditions! Future ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
If your choice enters into it, then taste is involved - bad taste, good taste, uninteresting taste. Taste is the enemy of art, A-R-T. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I'm nothing else but an artist, I'm sure, and delighted to be.
In chess, there are some extremely beautiful things in the domain of movement, but not in the visual domain. It's the imagining of the movement or of the gesture that makes the beauty in this case.
In France, in Europe, the young artists of any generation always act as grandsons of some great man - Poussin, for example, or Victor Hugo. They can't help it. Even if they don't believe in that, it gets in their system. And so when they come to produce something of their own, the tradition is nearly indestructible.
In French, there is an old expression, la patte, meaning the artist's touch, his personal style, his 'paw'. I wanted to get away from la patte and from all that retinal painting.
In the beginning, the cubists broke up form without even knowing they were doing it. Probably the compulsion to show multiple sides of an object forced us to break the object up - or, even better, to project a panorama that unfolded different facets of the same object.
In the midst of each epoch, I fully realize that a new epoch will dawn.
In the 'Nude Descending a Staircase,' I wanted to create a static image of movement: movement is an abstraction, a deduction articulated within the painting, without our knowing if a real person is or isn't descending an equally real staircase.
It is a matter of great indifference to me what criticism is printed in the papers and the magazines. I am simply working out my own ideas in my own way.
It is curious to note how fragile the memory is, even for the important times in one's life. This is, moreover, what explains the fortunate fantasy of history. Life ;History
It's a product of two poles - there's the pole of the one who makes the work, and the pole of the one who looks at it. I give the latter as much importance as the one who makes it. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Living is more a question of what one spends than what one makes.
Man can never expect to start from scratch; he must start from ready-made things, like even his own mother and father.
Marcel, no more painting; go get a job.
My position is the lack of a position, but, of course, you can't even talk about it; the minute you talk, you spoil the whole game.
My Ready-Mades have nothing to do with the 'objet trouve' because the so-called 'found object' is completely directed by personal taste. Personal taste decides that this is a beautiful object and is unique.
My stay in Munich was the scene of my complete liberation.
One does not contemplate it like a picture. The idea of contemplation disappears completely. Simply take note that it's a bottle rack, or that it's a bottle rack that has changed its destination... It's not the visual question of the readymade that counts; it's the fact that it exists, even.
One is a painter because one wants so-called freedom; one doesn't want to go to the office every morning. Morning ;Freedom & Liberty
One must pass through the network of influence. One is obligated to be influenced, and one accepts this influence very naturally. From the start, one doesn't realize this. The first thing to know: one doesn't realize one is influenced. One thinks he is already liberated, and one is far from it!
Painter after painter, since the beginning of the century, has tended toward abstraction. First, the Impressionists simplified the landscape in terms of color, and then the Fauves simplified it again by adding distortion, which, for some reason, is a characteristic of our century.
Painting is a language of its own. You cannot interpret one form of expression with another form of expression.
Rational intelligence is dangerous and leads to ratiocination. The painter is a medium who doesn't realize what he is doing. No translation can express the mystery of sensibility, a word, still unreliable, which is nevertheless the basis of painting or poetry, like a kind of alchemy. Literature, Writers & Writing
Since Courbet, it's been believed that painting is addressed to the retina. That was everyone's error. The retinal shudder! Before, painting had other functions: it could be religious, philosophical, moral... our whole century is completely retinal, except for the Surrealists, who tried to go outside it somewhat.
Since the tubes of paint used by the artist are manufactured and ready-made products, we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are 'ready-mades aided' and also works of assemblage.
The basis for my own work during the years just before coming to America in 1915 was a desire to break up forms - to 'decompose' them much along the lines the cubists had done. But I wanted to go further - much further - in fact, in quite another direction altogether. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The curious thing about the Ready-Made is that I've never been able to arrive at a definition or explanation that fully satisfies me. There's still magic in the idea, so I'd rather keep it that way than try to be exoteric about it.
The danger is in pleasing an immediate public: the immediate public that comes around you and takes you in and accepts you and gives you success and everything. Instead of that, you should wait for fifty years or a hundred years for your true public. That is the only public that interests me. Success
The entire world of art has reached such a low level, it has been commercialized to such a degree that art and everything related to it has become one of the most trivial activities of our epoch. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The 'Glass' is not my autobiography, nor is it self-expression. Far from it.
The individual - man as a man, man as a brain, if you like - interests me more than what he makes because I've noticed that most artists only repeat themselves.
The last hundred years have been retinal; even the cubists were. The surrealists tried to free themselves, and earlier so had the dadaists, but unfortunately, these latter were nihilists and didn't produce enough to prove their point, which, by the way, they didn't have to prove - according to their theory.
The word 'art' interests me very much. If it comes from Sanskrit, as I've heard, it signifies 'making.' Now everyone makes something, and those who make things on a canvas with a frame, they're called artists. Formerly, they were called craftsmen, a term I prefer. We're all craftsmen, in civilian or military or artistic life. Life ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
There does not exist a painter who knows himself or knows what he is doing.
There is something like an explosion in the meaning of certain words: they have a greater value than their meaning in the dictionary.
There was an incident, in 1912, which 'gave me a turn,' so to speak: when I brought the 'Nude Descending a Staircase' to the Independants, and they asked me to withdraw it before the opening.
Things were sort of Bohemian in Montmartre - one lived, one painted, one was a painter - all that doesn't mean anything, fundamentally.
Tradition is the great misleader because it's too easy to follow what has already been done - even though you may think you're giving it a kick. I was really trying to invent, instead of merely expressing myself.
What am I? Do I know? I am a man: quite simply, a 'breather.'
What art is, in reality, is this missing link, not the links which exist. It's not what you see that is art; art is the gap. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
What would I do with money? I have enough for my needs. I don't want any more. If I had a lot, I would have to care for it, worry about it. Money, Coins & Minting
When cubism began to take a social form, Metzinger was especially talked about. He explained cubism, while Picasso never explained anything. It took a few years to see that not talking was better than talking too much.
When I put a bicycle wheel on a stool, the fork down, there was no idea of a 'ready-made' or anything else. It was just a distraction. I didn't have any special reason to do it, or any intention of showing it or describing anything.
When the vision of the 'Nude' flashed upon me, I knew that it would break forever the enslaving chains of Naturalism.
When you make a painting, even abstract, there is always a sort of necessary filling-in.
Why are all the artists so dead-set on distorting? It seems to be a reaction against photography, but I'm not sure.
Words are the tools of 'to be' - of expression. They are completely built on the fact that you 'are,' and in order to express it, you have built a little alphabet, and you make your words from it.
Words such as truth, art, veracity, or anything are stupid in themselves. Truth ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
You have to approach something with indifference, as if you had no aesthetic emotion. The choice of readymades is always based on visual indifference and, at the same time, on the total absence of good or bad taste. Time

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