Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain

Topics: Marcel Duchamp, Dada, Art Pages: 6 (1768 words) Published: March 29, 2011
Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain
by Sarah Shea HUMN406-01 Professor Nelson

Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain People often ask what constitutes good art. Who decides whether or not a piece is art and whether it is good art or not? Marcel Duchamp challenged popular notions of his day about what art actually is. Duchamp, a French artist living in New York at the turn of the century, believed that it was up to the artist to determine what art is. Duchamp is most famous for a type of sculpture he created called “readymades”1. Readymades are ordinary functional household objects that have either been joined to other objects, or chosen to stand alone as sculpture. Examples of his readymades include a coat hanger nailed to the floor of his studio, a hat rack suspended from the ceiling, a typewrite cover concealing nothing, and a bicycle wheel attached to a stool. Duchamp often altered the objects in some way, sometimes by just turning the object on its side, or hanging it … anything other than the specific way it was suppose to be placed in. Marcel Duchamp’s belief was that because the artist chose the object to be art, it was, even though the artist did not physically manufacture it. Marcel Duchamp was born in 1887 to a very artistic French family. Three of his siblings went on to become successful artists. Duchamp studied art at the Académie Julian, a studio school in Paris for artists with an academic tradition. Shortly after his time at the school, Duchamp created what would become a well-known piece: Nude 1

The term “readymade” was not actually in existence at the time of his first readymades. The term didn’t come about until after he came to America from France in 1915. Duchamp himself said of these the following: “It was an interesting word, but when I put a bicycle wheel on a stool, the fork down, there was no idea of a "readymade," 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.” (From the article by Molly Nesbit entitled His Common Sense- Marcel Duchamps in the magazine Art Forum. Oct. 1994)

Descending a Staircase. The painting depicted a cubist figure in motion. By superimposing the image of the figure, Duchamp created movement in two dimensions. This became one of his most famous paintings, and possibly the first one to create controversy at art shows. Duchamp traveled to New York in 1920. Having made friends with the likes of artists such as Man Ray, Beatrice Wood, and Francis Picabia, Duchamp became well known within the surrealist circle, and even founded the Société Anonyme. This society was the one that would later reject Duchamp’s own entry into their art show. In 1942 Duchamp permanently settled in New York, and lived there until his death in 1968. One of Duchamp’s most famous, and controversial readymades is called Fountain. Fountain was first introduced in April of 1917. Duchamp entered it into an art exhibition that was being put on by the American Society of Independent Artists, a group that Duchamp himself was a director of. Duchamp entered the readymade under the name of Richard Mutt; by using an alias, Duchamp turned the entry into a test for the society. The main idea of the exhibition was “…an exhibition…where artists of all schools can exhibit together-certain that whatever they send will be hung…There are no requirements for admission to the Society save the acceptance of its principles and the payment of the initiation fee of one dollar and the annual dues of five dollars…”2 Duchamp sent in his readymade with the required fees, and according to the rules of the exhibition, Fountain 2

Taken from Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century 1990 passage from an announcement entitled “The Society of Independent Artists, Inc.”

was to be accepted. However, because this readymade was originally manufactured to be a urinal, it was considered, by the society, to be too controversial and inappropriate for the...


Cited: •
Art Journals: Tout-Fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal Duchamp’s Gendered Plumbing: A Family Business? By Jack Spector http://www.marcelduchamp.net/article_spector/spector.htm ArtForum, Oct. 1994 His Common Sense, Marcel Duchamp’s By Molly Nesbit http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_n2_v33/ai_16315398 Art Journal, winter 1998 Work Avoidance: The Everyday Life of Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades By Helen Molesworth http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0425/is_4_57/ai_53747210

Internet sources: Fountain http://arthist.binghamton.edu/duchamp/fountain.html Wikipedia Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Duchamp The Fine Site http://www.finesite.webart.ru/shocking/fountain-1.htm

Book Sources: Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century 1990 MIT Press Edited By Rudolf E. Kuenzli and Francis M. Naumann
The Duchamp Effect 1996 MIT Press Edited By Martha Buskirk and Mignon Nixon Marcel Duchamp Work and Life 1993 MIT Press Edited and introduced by Pontus Hulten. Texts by Jennifer Gough-Cooper and Jacques Caumont
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