Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon in the garden of Villon's studio, Puteaux, France, c.1913.

Marcel Duchamp (28 July 18872 October 1968) was a French artist who became an American citizen in 1955. His work and ideas had considerable influence on the development of post-World War Two Western art. He was the first artist creating 'ready-made' in modern art.

Contents

Quotes of Marcel DuchampEdit

sorted chronologically, after date of the quote


1915 - 1925Edit

  • ..I am not going to New York, I am leaving Paris. That’s quite different. Long before the war [World War 1.] I already had a distaste for the 'artistic life' I was involved in. – It’s quite the opposite of what I’m looking for. – And so I tried, through the Library, to escape from artists somewhat. Then, with the war, my incompatibility with this milieu grew. I wanted to go away at all costs. Where to? My only option was New York where I knew you [ w:Walter Pach, artist and friend of Duchamp] and where I hope to be able to escape leading the artistic life, if needs be through a job which will keep me very busy. I ask you to keep all this from my brothers [all his brothers were artists as well] because I know my leaving will be very painful for them. – the same goes for my father and sisters.
    • In: a letter to Walter Pach, Paris 27 April 1915; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 157


  • I have impressed upon you my preoccupation with earning money so as to have a secure existence over there. That's the way it have to be.. .I am very happy to hear that you [ w:Walter Pach ] sold these canvasses for me and thank you very sincerely for your friendship. But I am afraid of getting to the stage of needing to sell canvases, In a word, of being a painter for a living. – So I'll be leaving probably on the 22nd or rather 29th May [1915], if the police authorities allow me to take the steamer.
    • In: a letter to Walter Pach, Paris 27 April 1915; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 157


  • People talk of Picasso as the leader of the Cubists but, strictly speaking, he is no longer a Cubist. Today he is a Cubist, tomorrow he will be something else. The only true Cubists are Gleizes and Metzinger.
    • quote from 'A complete reversal of opinions on art'; Marcel Duchamp, in 'Art and Decoration', New York, 1 September 1915


  • Now, if you [his sister, w:Suzanne Duchamp ] have been up to my place, you will have seen, in the studio, [his former studio in France, probably in Paris] a 'w:Bicycle Wheel' and a 'w:Bottle Rack'. [both art-works became later famous ready-mades of Duchamp] – I bought this as a ready-made sculpture [sculpture tout faite]. And I h have a plan concerning this so-called bottle rack. Listen to this. Here in N.Y., I have bought various objects in the same taste and I treat them as 'ready-mades'. You know enough English to understand the meaning of 'ready-made' [tour fait] that I give these objects. – I sign them and think of an inscription for them in English. I'll give you a few examples. I have, for example, a large snow shovel on which I have inscribed at the bottom: In advance of the broken arm, French translation: 'En avance dus bras cassé' – (Don't tear your hair out) trying to understand this in the Romantic or impressionist or Cubist sense – it has nothing to do with all that. Another 'readymade' is called: Emergency in favour of twice possible French translation: Danger \Crise \en favour de 2 fois. This long preamble just to say: Take this bottle rack for yourself. I'm making it a 'readymade' remotely. You are to inscribe it at the bottom and on the inside of the bottom circle, in small letters painted with a brush in oil, silver white colour, with an inscription which I will give you herewith, and then sign it, in the same handwriting, as follows: [after] Marcel Duchamp.
    • In: a letter to his sister w:Suzanne Duchamp, New York, c. 15 January 1916; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 pp. 157-158


  • They say any artist paying six dollars may exhibit
    Mr. Richard Mutt [inscription written by Duchamp] sent in a fountain. Without discussion this article disappeared and never was exhibited.
    What were the grounds for refusing Mr. Mutt fountain:
    1. Some contented it was immoral, vulgar.
    2. Others, it was plagiarism, ac plain piece of plumbing.
    Now, Mr. Mutt
    fountain is not immoral, that is absurd, no more than a bith tube is immoral. It is a fixture that you see every day in plumber’s show windows.
    Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made this fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that’s its useful significance disappeared under the new title ['The Richard Mutt Case'] and point of view – created a new thought for that object.
    As for plumbing, that is absurd. The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges. (quote, 1917)
    • In: Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, – a source-book of Artist’s writings, ed. Kristine Stiles / Peter Selz, University of California Press, London, England, 1996, p. 817
    • Duchamp’s core quote / his own written comment on his artwork 'w:Fountain (Duchamp)': The Richard Mutt Case, Marcel Duchamp, ‘Blind Man’, New York, 1917: 5


  • To be looked at [from the other side of his art-work 'The Glass'] with one eye, close to, for almost an hour.
    • an inscription in French title, translated – instruction of his artwork, 1918; as quoted from 'Looking at Dada' ed. Sarah Blyth / Edward Powers, MoMa museum, New York 2006, p. 13


  • Painting is over and done with. Who could do anything better than this propeller? Look, could you do that?
    • Duchamp's remark to Brancusi, visiting the Paris Aviation Show of 1919; as quoted in Looking at Dada, eds. Sarah Ganz Blythe & Edward D. Powers - The Museum of Modern Art New York, ISBN: 087070-705-1; p. 49


  • If a straight horizontal thread one meter long falls from a height of one meter on to a horizontal plane twisting as it pleases [it] creates a new image of the unit of length.
    • Duchamp's stated premise for his art-work: '3 Standard stoppages' he made during 1913 -1914; ; as quoted in Looking at Dada, eds. Sarah Ganz Blythe & Edward D. Powers - The Museum of Modern Art New York, ISBN: 087070-705-1; p. 50


  • They say any artist paying six dollars may exhibit. Mr.Richard Mutt [= Duchamp] sent in a fountain. Without discussion this article disappeared and never was exhibited. What were the grounds for refusing Mr. Mutt's fountain:
    1. Some contented it was immoral, vulgar.
    2. Others, it was plagiarism, a plain piece of plumbing.
    Now, Mr. Mutt's fountain is not immoral, that is absurd, no more than a bath tube is immoral. It is a fixture that you see every day in plumber’s show windows. Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made this fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that’s its useful significance disappeared under the new title [of 'The Richard Mutt Case' Duchamp made in 1917] and point of view, created a new thought for that object. As for plumbing, that is absurd. The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges.
    • own comment on his artwork 'The Fountain': The Richard Mutt Case, Marcel Duchamp, 'Blind Man', New York, 1917: 5; as quoted in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, – a source-book of Artist’s writings, ed. Kristine Stiles / Peter Selz, University of California Press, London, England, 1996, p. 817


  • I have been wanting to write to you for some time, but never have time, so absorbed I am in playing chess. I play night and day and nothing in the whole world interests me more than finding the right move.. .Nothing transcendental going on here – strikes [in Buenos Aires, where chess competitions were organized that year for not professionals] a lot of strikes, the people are on the move. Painting interests me less and less.
    • a daily life quote in a letter to the Stettheimers family in New York, from Buenos Aires 3 Mai 1919; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 159


1921 - 1950Edit

  • You w:Katherine Sophie Dreier; director of the Art Center in New York City; she co-founded with Duchamp and Man Ray the 'Sociéte Anonyme' in Manhattan in 1920] must understand:
    My attitude toward the book is based upon my attitude towards 'Art' since 1918 – so I am furious myself that you will accept only partly that attitude [in a new publication by Katherine Dreier]. It can be no more question of my life as an artist’s life: [because] I gave it up ten years ago; this period is long enough to prove that my intention to remain outside of any art manifestation is permanent.. .The third question is that I want to be alone as much as possible.
    This abrupt way to speak of my 'hardening process' is not meant to be mean, but is the result of '42 years of age'.. ..10 000 apologies for this rough letter and affectueusement
    Dee -
    • In: a letter to w:Katherine Sophie Dreier, Paris 11 September 1929; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 158
    • Duchamp's quote is referring to a new publication of the 'Duchamp Book' and to his famous so-called Art-Silence.


  • De Chirico [Italian painter, later admired by the Surrealists as 'early Surrealist'] found himself in 1912 confronted with the problem of following one of the roads already opened or of opening a new road. He avoided Fauvism as well as Cubism and introduced what could be called 'metaphysical painting'. Instead of exploiting the coming medium of abstraction, he organized on his canvases the meeting of elements which could only meet in a 'metaphysical world'. These elements, painted in the minutest technique, were 'exposed' on a horizontal plane in orthodox perspective. This technique, in opposition to the Cubist or the purely abstract formula in full bloom at the moment, protected de Chirico’s position and allowed him to lay down the foundation of what was to become Surrealism ten years later.
    • In: 'Appreciations of other artists': Giorgio de Chirico (painter, writer, illustrator) 1943, by Marcel Duchamp; as quoted in Catalog, Collection of the Societé Anonyme, eds. Michel Sanouillet / Elmer Peterson, London 1975, pp. 143- 159


  • The Dada movement was an anti-movement which corresponded to a need born of the first World War. Although neither literary nor pictorial in essence, Dada found its exponents in painters and writers scattered all over the world. Max Ernst's activities in Cologne in 1917 made him the foremost representative of the Dada painters. Between 1919 and 1921 his paintings, drawings and collages depicting the world of the subconscious were already a foretaste of Surrealism.. .In fact his previous achievements had certainly influenced, to a great extent, the literary Surrealist exploration of the subconscious.
    • In: 'Appreciations of other artists': Max Ernst (painter, sculptor author) 1945, by Marcel Duchamp; as quoted in Catalog, Collection of the Societé Anonyme, eds. Michel Sanouillet / Elmer Peterson, London 1975, pp. 143- 159


  • I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own tastes.
    • quoted by Harriet & Sidney Janis in 'Marchel Duchamp: Anti-Artist' in View magazine 3/21/45; reprinted in Robert Motherwell, Dada Painters and Poets (1951)


  • Miro came of age as an artist just at the time World War 1. ended. With the end of the war came the end of all the new pre-war art conceptions. A young painter could not start as a Cubist or a Futurist, and Dada was the only manifestation at the moment. Miro began by painting farm scenes from the countryside of Barcelona, his native land.. .A few years later he came to Paris [circa 1914] and found himself among the Dadaists who were, at that time, transmuting into Surrealism. In spite of this contact Miró kept aloof from any direct influence and showed a series of canvases in which form submitted to strong colouring expressed a new two-dimensional cosmogony, in no way related to abstraction.
    • In: 'Appreciations of other artists': Joan Miro (painter, sculptor author) 1946, by Marcel Duchamp; as quoted in Catalog, Collection of the Societé Anonyme, eds. Michel Sanouillet / Elmer Peterson, London 1975, pp. 143- 159


  • ..Yes, indeed, what have we been up to? I feel rather like I've retired to the country, in some remote province, for that's what my life is like in N. Y. I see few people and people don’t try to see me anymore as they know they bore me. I write to the Arensberg's once a year and they do the same. There is a general weariness which, I think, is not confined to our generation. To tell the truth, most people prefer war to peace.. .Well, there you are, my dear Yvonne. Nothing as usual. Chess as much as possible: at least chess players don’t talk -
    • In: his letter to Yvonne Chastel, New York 8 January 1949; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 159


  • Based on the metaphysical implications of the Dadaist dogma.. ..Arp's Reliefs [carvings] between 1916 and 1922 are among the most convincing illustrations of that anti- rationalistic era.. .Arp showed the importance of a smile to combat the sophistic theories of the moment. His poems of the same period stripped the word of its rational connotation to attain the most unexpected meaning through alliteration or plain nonsense.
    • In: 'Appreciations of other artists': Jean (Hans) Arp (sculptor, painter, writer) 1949, by Marcel Duchamp; as quoted in Catalog, Collection of the Societé Anonyme, eds. Michel Sanouillet / Elmer Peterson, London 1975, pp. 143- 159


  • Received your letter and, almost at the same time, the long text at which I was overjoyed. You no doubt know that you are the only person in the world to have put together the gestation of the glass [ The Large Glass, circa 1923] in all its detail, including even the numerous intentions which were never executed [by Duchamp]. Your patient work has enabled me to relive a period of long years during which the notes were written for the 'Green Box' [the second of the three Boxes Duchamp created and this one was full of written notes] at the same time as the Glass [= The Large Glass] was taking shape. And I confess to you that, not having read these notes for a very long time, I had completely lost all recollection of numerous points not illustrated on the glass and which are a delight to me now [c. 25 years later].
    • In: a letter to Jean Suquet (art historian), New York 25 December 1949; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 163


  • Another important point which you so very accurately sensed concerns the idea that the glass in actual fact is not meant to be looked at (with 'aesthetic' eyes). It should be accompanied by a 'literary' text, as amorphous as possible, which never took shape. And the two elements, glass for the eyes, text for the ears and understanding, should complement each other and above all prevent one or the other from taking on an aesthetic-plastic or literary form. All in all, I am hugely indebted to you for having stripped bare my Bride stripped bare [the complete title is: [[w:The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), c. 1915 – 1923].
    • In: a letter to Jean Suquet (art historian), New York 25 December 1949; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 163


1951 - 1968Edit

  • You were asking my opinion on your work of art, my dear Jean [= Duchamp's brother-in-law w:Jean Crotti, who asked Duchamp his comment on an art-work he made].. .Artists throughout the ages are like Monte Carlo gamblers and the blind lottery pulls some of them through and ruin others.. .I do not believe in painting per se – A painting is made not by the artist but by those who look at it and grant it their favors. In other words, no painters knows himself or what he is doing – There is no outward sign explaining why a w:Fra Angelico and a Leonardo [da Vinci] are equally 'recognized'. It all takes place at the level of our old friend luck.
    • In a letter to w:Jean Crotti (Duchamp's brother-in-law) and his sister w:Suzanne Duchamp, New York 17 Augustus 1952; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 167


  • This long preamble just to tell you not to judge your own work as you are the last person to see it (with true eyes) – What you see neither redeems nor condemns it – All words used to explain or praise it are false translations of what is going on beyond sensations.
    You are, as we all are, obsessed by the accumulation of principles or anti-principles which generally cloud your mind with their terminology and, without knowing it, you are a prisoner of what you think is a liberated education –
    In your particular case, you are certainly the victim of the 'Ecole de Paris' [French abstract art movement which developed after world War 2.], a joke that’s lasted for 60 years.
    • In a letter to w:Jean Crotti (Duchamp's brother-in-law) and his sister w:Suzanne Duchamp, New York 17 Augustus 1952; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 167


  • So if I say you that your paintings [which his brother-in-law recently made] have nothing in common with what we see generally classified and accepted, and that you have always managed to produce things that were entirely your own work, as I truly see it, that does not mean you have the right to be seated next to Leonardo -
    What's more, this originality is suicidal as it distances you from a 'clientele' used to 'copies of copiers', often referred to as 'tradition'-
    One more thing, your technique is not the 'expected' technique – It's your own personal technique, borrowed from nobody – and there again, this doesn’t attract the clientele.. ..In a word, do less self-analysis and enjoy your work without worrying about opinions, your own as well as that of others.
    • In a letter to w:Jean Crotti (Duchamp's brother-in-law) and his sister w:Suzanne Duchamp, New York 17 Augustus 1952; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 pp. 167-168


  • I am a great enemy of critical writing as all I see in these interpretations and comparisons with Kafka and others is just an opportunity to open up the floodgates of words which, overall, amounts to Carrouges or at times a translation of Carrouges – very free to makes his ideas look good. Obviously any work of art or literature, in the public domain, is automatically the subject of the victim of such transformations – and this is not just confined to the case of Carrouges. Every fifty years, El Greco is revised and adapted to the taste of the day, either overrated or underrated. The same goes for all surviving works of art. And this leads me to say that a work of art is made entirely by those who look at it or read it and make it survive by their acclaim or even their condemnation.
    • In: his letter to Jean Mayoux (a Surrealist artist), New York 8 March 1956; as quoted in The Duchamp Book, ed. Gavin Parkinson, Tate Publishing, London 2008 p. 169


  • This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage etc. [Duchamp is referring to Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein,] is an easy way out and lives on what Dada did. When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics. In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-made's and found aesthetic beauty in them. I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal in their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.
    • In: his letter to the German artist Hans Richter, in 1962; as quoted in Hans Richter, Dada Art and Anti-Art - New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965, pp. 207-8


  • My brother [the sculptor artist w:Raymond Duchamp-Villon had a kitchen in his little house in Puteaux, and he had the idea of decorating it with pictures by his buddies. He asked Gleizes, Metzinger, La Fresnaye, and I think Leger [all Cubist painters, then] to do some little paintings of the same size, like a sort of frieze. He asked me too, and I painted a coffee grinder which I made to explode.
    • in: Entretiens avec Marcel Duchamp, 1965; as quoted in Futurism, ed. By Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 198
    • Duchamp's quote is referring to the painting 'Moulin a café', 1911 - many times reproduced from the lithography, made for the 1947 re-edition of Gleizes and Metzingers book 'Du Cubisme'


  • I wanted to kill art for myself.. ..a new thought for that object.
    • In: 'Marcel Duchamps 1887 – 1968'’, Artforum 7 no. 3, November 1968, p. 6


  • the idea of movement.. ..just transferred from the Nude [ w:Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 - Duchamp painted this in 1912] into a bicycle wheel [ w:Bicycle wheel, his early ready-made from 1916-17].
    • Duchamp is looking back shortly before his death in 1968; as quoted in Looking at Dada, eds. Sarah Ganz Blythe & Edward D. Powers - The Museum of Modern Art New York, ISBN: 087070-705-1; p. 41


'The Creative Act', 1957Edit

'The Creative Act', 1957 (Duchamp's lecture in Houston, April 1957); as quoted in Art News, 56. no. 4, Summer 1957, p. 28 –29


  • Let us consider two important factors, the two poles of the creation of art: the artist on one hand, and on the other the spectator who later becomes the posterity; to all appearances the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.


  • If we give the attributes of a medium to the artist, we must then deny him the state of consciousness on the aesthetic plane about what he is doing or why he is doing it. All this decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis, spoken or written, or even thought out.


  • Millions of artist create; only a few thousands are discussed or accepted by the spectator and many less again are consecrated by posterity.
    In the last analysis, the artist may shout from all the rooftops that he is a genius; he will have to wait for the verdict of the spectator in order that his declarations take a social value and that, finally posterity include him in the primers of Art history.
    I know that this statement will not meet with the approval of many artists who refuse this mediumistic role and insist on the validity of their awareness in the creative act.


  • I want to clarify our understanding of the word 'art' – to be sure, without an attempt to a definition. What I have in mind is that art may be bad, good or indifferent, but, whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the same way as a bad emotion is still an emotion.
    Therefore, when I refer to 'art coefficient', it will be understood that I refer not only to great art, but I am trying to describe the subjective mechanism which produces art in a raw state – 'à l'état brute' – bad, good or indifferent.


  • In the creative act, the artist goes from intention to realization through a chain of totally subjective reactions. His struggle towards the realization is a series of efforts, pains, satisfactions, refusals, decisions, which also cannot be fully self-conscious, at least on the aesthetic plane. The result of his struggle is a difference between the intention and its realization, a difference which the artist is not aware of.


  • Consequently, in the chain of reactions accompanying the creative act, a link is missing. This gap which represents the inability of the artist to express fully his intention, this difference between what he intended to realize and did realize, is the personal 'art coefficient', contained in the work.


  • ..we must remember that this 'art coefficient' is a personal expression of art 'à l’état brute', that is, still in a raw state, which must be 'refined' as pure sugar from molasses, by the spectator; the digit of this coefficient has no bearing whatsoever on his verdict.. ..the role of the spectator is to determine the weight of the work on the aesthetic scale.


'Apropos of Ready Mades', 1961Edit

'Apropos of Ready Mades, 1961' (Duchamp’s lecture at the MOMA museum), New York, 19 October 1961; in Art and Artists 1, July 1966: 47
  • In 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn. A few months later I bought a cheap reproduction of a winter evening landscape, which I called 'Pharmacy' after assign two small dots, one red and one yellow, in the horizon. In New York in 1915 I bought at a hardware store an snow shovel on which I wrote 'In advance of the broken arm'. It was around that time that the word 'Readymade' came to mind to designate this form of manifestation.


  • A point which I want very much to establish is that the choice of these 'ready-mades' was never dictated by aesthetic delectation. This choice was based on a reaction of visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste.. ..in fact a complete anesthesia. One important characteristic was the short sentence which I occasionally inscribed on the 'readymade'. That sentence instead of describing the object like a title was meant to carry the mind of the spectator towards other regions more verbal.


  • I realized very soon the danger of repeating indiscriminately this form of expression and decided to limit the production of 'ready-mades' to a small number yearly. I was aware at that time, that for the spectator even more than for the artist, art is a habit forming drug and I wanted to protect my 'ready-mades' against such contamination.


  • Another aspect of the 'readymade' is its lack of uniqueness.. ..the replica of a 'readymade' delivering the same message; in fact nearly every one of the 'ready-made's existing today is not an original in the conventional sense.
    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-made's aided' and also works of assemblage.


Attributed from posthumous publicationsEdit

  • The spectator experiences the phenomenon of transmutation; through the change from inert matter into a work of art, an actual transubstantiation has taken place.. .All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work into contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.
    • The Writings of Marcel Duchamp (Marchand du Sel) e.d. Michel Sanouille and Elmer Peterson, New York 1973, pp. 139-140


  • ..the thing was to choose one [a ready-made object] that you were not attracted by.. ..and that was difficult because anything becomes beautiful if you look at it long enough.. .[My intention was to] completely eliminate the existence of taste, bad or good or indifferent.
    • In: The New York school – the painters & sculptors of the fifties, Irving Sandler, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978, p. 164


  • He [= Duchamp himself, writing in the third person] CHOSE IT. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.
    • In: 'The Bride and the Bachelors', Tomkins, p. 41; as quoted in 'The New York school – the painters & sculptors of the fifties' Irving Sandler, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978, p. 171
    • in this quote Duchamp is quoting himself


  • 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 all that retinal painting.
  • The only man in the past whom I really respect was Seurat.. .He didn't let his hand interfere with his mind.
    • In: Bride and the Bachelors, Tomkins, p. 24; as quoted in Outside the Lines, David W. Galenson, Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 109


  • ..because his applying paint to it [the sculpture 'Painted Bronze, two painted ale cans', created by the American pré-Pop Art artist Jasper Johns ] was absolutely mechanical or, at least, as close to the printed thing as possible. It was not an act of painting; actually, the printing [or painting?] was just like printing except it was made by hand by him. That doesn’t add a thing to it. – it’s just the idea of imitating the beer can that is important.
    • In: 'Some late thoughts of Marcel Duchamp', an interview with Jeanne Siegel, p. 21; as quoted in 'The New York school – the painters & sculptors of the fifties' Irving Sandler, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978, p. 194


  • Somebody in Germany [the German artist Joseph Beuys, who frequently visited America to discuss and to do performances] has been talking about my 'silence', saying that it is overrated. What does that mean? [this quotes you find also in Joseph Beuys' quotes on Wikiquote], he himself heard this 'rumor' from several American artists! (Joseph Beuys continued: I am convinced that he [=Duchamp] knew very well what it meant. If he was unsure about it, he could have written me a letter).
    • In: 'Interview with Achille Bonito Oliva', 1986; Republished in: 'Joseph Beuys', Carin Kuoni. Joseph Beuys in America: Energy Plan for the Western Man. New York, 1993


  • Well, this man [the T.V. interviewer of Jasper Johns,] wanted to know why I stopped painting [the so-called famous 'Silence of Duchamp'].. ..and he had said [it was] because of dealers and money and various reasons. Largely moralistic reasons.. ..But you know; it wasn’t like that. It’s like you break a leg; you don’t mean to do it.
    • In: Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, Moma, New York, 1996; p. 151


  • I wanted to get away from the physical act of painting.. .For me the title ( 'Fresh Widow', 1920, with inscription under: 'Fresh Widow Copyright Rose Sélavy, 1920', [probably referring to all the widows because of the many killings of soldiers in World War, 1 which ended in 1918] was very important.. .I was interested in ideas – not merely visual products. I wanted to put painting once again at the service of the mind.
    • In: Looking at Dada ed. Sarah Blyth / Edward Powers, MoMa, New york 2006; p. 13

Quotes about Marcel DuchampEdit

"Duchamp did not select just any ready-made object to display. In selecting the urinal, his message was clear: Art is something you piss on." Stephen Hicks


  • And then there is that one-man movement, Marcel Duchamp - for me a truly modern movement because it implies that each artist can do what he thinks he ought to - a movement for each person and open for everybody.
    • Willem de Kooning's speech 'What Abstract Art means to me' on the symposium 'What is Abstract At' - at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 5 February, 1951, n.p.


  • Marcel Duchamp's silence is overrated
    • (Originally German: Das Schweigen von Marcel Duchamp wird überbewertet)
    • from a Poster by Joseph Beuys, 1964


  • Marcel Duchamp, one of this century’s pioneers, moved his work through the retinal boundaries which had been established with Impressionism into a field where language, thought and vision act upon one another. There it changed form through a complex interplay of new mental and physical materials, heralding many of the technical, mental and visual details to be found in more recent art.. .He declared that he wanted to kill art ('for myself') but his persistent attempts to destroy frames of reference altered our thinking, established new units of thought, a "new thought for that object".
    • Jasper Johns, in 'Marcel Duchamps 1887 – 1968', Artforum 7 no. 3, November 1968, p. 6


  • His [Marcel Duchamp's] idea was that anything could be art by focusing the mind to think of it as art. My images are similar but at the time my work was first being shown, 1958-'59, I was unfamiliar with Duchamp and Dada. Everyone said my work was Dada, so I read on it, went to Philadelphia to see the 'Arensberg Duchamp collection', was delighted by it and later met him [Duchamp].. .But it was all more a coincidence. Perhaps it’s that certain ideas get into the air, ideas that come out of our living and out of the environment automatically
    • Jasper Johns, in 'Daily Close-up, after the Flag', Roberta Brandes Gratz, New York Post, 30 December 1970, p. 25


  • The Duchamp thing is played both ways. The 'Urinal' [a famous 'readymade' art-work of Marcel Duchamp] signed R. Mutt, is played as an art object, and then as the opposite of a legitimate art object. And it vacillates back and forth. Well perhaps that is a nice thing, but I don’t know. I find Duchampianism a bore. It’s very adolescent. I was very much excited by it when I was a teenager.. .My tradition is quite different. My conscious tradition is through Constantin Brâncuși, and Brancusi just strikes me as an infinitely wiser and infinitely more talented, an infinitely stronger figure than Duchamp. I think I could have done my work if Duchamp had not lived. I could not have done my work if Brancusi had not lived.
    • Carl Andre, as quoted in 'Artists talks 1969 – 1977', ed. Peggy Gale, The Press N.S.C.A.D, Nova Scotia, Canada 2004, pp. 15-16


  • In discussing his work [of Marcel Duchamp], it is necessary to avoid overrating his silence. I hold him in a very high esteem, but I have to reject his silence. Duchamp was simply finished. He had run out of ideas; he was unable to come up with anything important.. ..I would say that even the bourgeois tendencies in Duchamp’s work – i.e., a form of provocative, bohemian behavior intended to 'épater le bourgeois'- follow the same path. Duchamp started out from here and wanted to shock the bourgeoisie, and because of that he destroyed his creative powers.. ..The content of Duchamp’s silence refers to the aim of leaving the subconscious passive, of developing it. This is the aspect of Duchamp, which is related to Surrealism. The surrealists asserted that they could live with their subconscious; they thought they were above reality, but instead they were beneath it. They thought they could fish in muddy waters.. ..but to my mind, the images which emerged have a repressive effect.
    • Joseph Beuys statement on the 'Silence of Marcel Duchamp', in 'Death keeps me awake', interview with Achille Bonito Oliva, 1986; as quoted in “Energy Plan for the Western man”, by Four Walls Eight Windows, New York, 1993, pp. 169-170


  • I just like - just breathing. I like breathing better than working.
    • spoken by the character 'Marcel Duchamp' in The Mysteries and What's So Funny (play, 1992) by David Gordon


  • ..paint was always [in history of painting] a means to an end, whether the end was religious, social, decorative or romantic. Now it's become an end in itself..
    • In 'Artist's Voice', Kuh; as quoted in Outside the Lines, David W. Galenson, Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 109


  • [ Impressionism was] the beginning of a cult devoted to the material on the canvas – the actual pigment..
  • I was interested in ideas - not merely in visual products. I wanted to put painting once again at the service of the mind.
    • In 'Artist's Voice', Kuh; p. 89; as quoted in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, Sanouillet and Peterson, p. 125


  • Asked to submit something for display by the Society of Independent Artists in New York [in 1917], Duchamp sent a urinal. Duchamp of course knew the history of art. He knew what had been achieved—how over the centuries art had been a powerful vehicle that called upon the highest development of the human creative vision and demanded exacting technical skill; and he knew that art had an awesome power to exalt the senses, the intellects, and the passions of those who experience it. Duchamp reflected on the history of art and decided to make a statement. The artist is a not great creator—Duchamp went shopping at a plumbing store. The artwork is not a special object—it was mass-produced in a factory. The experience of art is not exciting and ennobling—at best it is puzzling and mostly leaves one with a sense of distaste. But over and above that, Duchamp did not select just any ready-made object to display. In selecting the urinal, his message was clear: Art is something you piss on.
    • Stephen Hicks (2004). Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault Tempe AZ: Scholargy Press, p. 196


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