The Life and History of Marcel Duchamp Essay

Marcel Duchamp arrived in the United States less than two years prior to the creation of Fountain and had become involved with Dada, an anti-rational, anti-art cultural movement, in New York City. According to one version, the creation of Fountain began when, accompanied by artist Joseph Stella and art collector Walter Arensberg, he purchased a standard Bedfordshire model urinal from the J. L. Mott Iron Works, 118 Fifth Avenue.

The artist brought the urinal to his studio at 33 West 67th Street, reoriented it to a position 90 degrees from its normal position of use, and wrote on it, “R. Mutt 1917”. [2][3] According to another version, Fountain is the result of a complex collaboration. In a 1917 letter to his sister, Duchamp himself credits a female friend with the idea, as he writes to Suzanne Duchamp: “One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture. [4] Duchamp never identified his collaborator, but two candidates have been proposed as collaborators. First, the Dadaist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, whose scatological aesthetics are more in line with the choice of a urinal as art than Duchamp’s;[5] and second, Louise Norton, who contributed an essay to The Blind Man discussing Fountain. Since ‘Dada’ did not start until 1916 in Zurich, it is hard to believe that Duchamp became involved with Dada two years prior to Fountain, 1915.

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Rhonda Roland Shearer in the online journal Tout-Fait (2000) has concluded that the photograph is a composite of different photos, while other scholars such as William Camfield in his book Fountain of 1989 have never been able to match the urinal shown in the photo to any urinals found in in the catalogues of the time period. [citation needed] At the time Duchamp was a board member of the Society of Independent Artists. After much debate by the board members (most of whom did not know Duchamp had submitted it) about whether the piece was or was not art, Fountain was hidden from view during the show. 6] Duchamp resigned from the Board in protest. The New York Dadaists stirred controversy about Fountain and its being hidden from view in the second issue of The Blind Man which included a photo of the piece and a letter by Alfred Stieglitz, and writings by Beatrice Wood and Arensberg. The anonymous editorial (which is assumed to be written by Wood) accompanying the photograph, entitled “The Richard Mutt Case,”[7] made a claim that would prove to be important concerning certain works of art that would come after it: Whether Mr Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it.

He took an 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. [8] In defense of the work being art, Wood also wrote, “The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges. “[8] Duchamp described his intent with the piece was to shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation. Shortly after its initial exhibition, Fountain was lost. According to Duchamp biographer Calvin Tomkins, the best guess is that it was thrown out as rubbish by Stieglitz, a common fate of Duchamp’s early readymades. 9] The first reproduction of Fountain was authorized by Duchamp in 1950 for an exhibition in New York; two more individual pieces followed in 1953 and 1963, and then an artist’s multiple was manufactured in an edition of eight in 1964. [10] These editions ended up in a number of important public collections; Indiana University Art Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Canada, Centre Georges Pompidou and Tate Modern. The edition of eight was manufactured from glazed earthenware painted to resemble the original porcelain, with a signature reproduced in black paint. [