Born in Blainville, Normandy, Duchamp was the son of a notary and the younger brother of the painter Jacques Villon and the Cubist sculptor Raymond Duchamp-Villon. He studied at the Académie Julian in 1904-5. His early figure paintings were influenced by Matisse and Fauvism, but in 1911 he created a personal brand of Cubism combining earthy colours, mechanical and visceral forms, and a depiction of movement which owes as much to Futurism as to Cubism. His Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2, 1912 (Philadelphia Museum of Art), created a sensation at the 1913 New York Armory Show. Duchamp did very little painting after 1912, creating the first of his 'readymades' in 1913. These were ordinary objects of everyday use, sometimes slightly altered, and designated works of art by the artist. His earliest readymades included Bicycle Wheel (1913), a wheel mounted on a wooden stool, and a snow shovel entitled In Advance of the Broken Arm (1915). One of his best-known pieces is a urinal, titled Fountain and signed 'R. Mutt', which he submitted to an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917. In the ensuing controversy, the concept of the readymade became associated with an assault on the conventional understanding of the nature and status of art. Duchamp also used readymades as parts of a private symbolic language. He spoke of how using prefabricated objects freed him from the 'trap' of developing a particular style or taste.
Marcel Duchamp Talks with Martin Friedman about the Readymade
Marcel Duchamp talks with Martin Friedman, Walker Art Center director (1961-1990), about the readymade. October 18, 1965
Marcel Duchamp 1968 BBC interview
Marcel Duchamp in 60 seconds
A quick introduction to Marcel Duchamp, whose revolutionary readymades shook art to its foundations.
Fountain 1917/1964 Glazed ceramic with black paint 38.1 × 48.9 × 62.5 cm
The original Fountain by Marcel Duchamp photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 (Art Gallery) after the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit. Stieglitz used a backdrop of The Warriors by Marsden Hartley to photograph the urinal. The entry tag is clearly visible.
Fountain is a 1917 work produced by Marcel Duchamp. The piece was a porcelain urinal, which was signed "R.Mutt" and titled Fountain. Submitted for the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, in 1917, the first annual exhibition by the Society to be staged at The Grand Central Palace in New York, Fountain was rejected by the committee, even though the rules stated that all works would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Fountain was displayed and photographed at Alfred Stieglitz's studio, and the photo published in The Blind Man, but the original has been lost. The work is regarded by art historians and theorists of the avant-garde, such as Peter Bürger, as a major landmark in 20th-century art. Seventeen replicas commissioned by Duchamp in the 1960s now exist.