MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)

Biography

Marcel Duchamp (French, 1887–1968), painter, sculptor, and writer, was born in Blainville, France, into a family of artists, and would become one of the most influential artists of the 20th century himself. Throughout his life he refused to accept the standard ideas of what constituted an art object, and continually rejected the conventions of an established art and exhibition system, considered essential to attain fame and financial success by many. After studying at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1905, Duchamp began painting in a Post-Impressionist style, but then adopted a more Cubist technique. By 1913, he had abandoned traditional painting altogether, developing a more conceptual approach to the art-making process through his Ready-mades—common objects, including urinals, bottle racks, and other everyday items, sometimes altered, which he submitted to exhibitions as works of art. They were rejected by critics in the art world, but had a revolutionary impact upon many contemporary circles of avant-garde painters and sculptors, and made Duchamp a notorious figure.

It was only in the last decade of his life that Duchamp’s work became renowned by large audiences. He was 76 years old when the first retrospective of his work was held at the Pasadena Museum of Art in Los Angeles, CA, in 1963. After his death in 1968, major exhibitions of his work were held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée National d’Art Moderne and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. Duchamp can be considered one of the most important art historical figures of the 20th century, participating in the Dada and Surrealist groups during his lifetime as well as affecting Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptual Art in the 1960s and 1970s.





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