The Chess Player As An Artist: Marcel Duchamp
In recognition of Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess exhibit currently on display at the Francis Naumann Gallery in New York City (Sept. 10th – Oct. 30th, 2009), we are running this article, previously published on our website in 2007.
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Marcel Duchamp Article (Previously published on our website 2007)
“…I HAVE COME TO THE PERSONAL CONCLUSION THAT WHILE ALL ARTISTS ARE NOT CHESS PLAYERS, ALL CHESS PLAYERS ARE ARTISTS.” MARCEL DUCHAMP
BIOGRAPHY OF MARCEL DUCHAMP 1887-1968:
Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was born July 28, 1887, near Blainville, France.
In 1904, he joined his artist brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, in Paris, where he studied painting at the Academie Julian until 1905.
Duchamps early works were Post-Impressionist in style. He exhibited for the first time in 1909 at the Salon des Independants and the Salon d’ Automne in Paris.
His paintings of 1911 were directly related to Cubism but emphasized successive images of a single body in motion.
In 1912, he painted the definitive version of Nude Descending a Staircase; this was shown at the Salon de la Section d’Or of that same year and subsequently created great controversy at the Armory Show in New York in 1913.
Duchamps radical and iconoclastic ideas predated the founding of the Dada movement in Zurich in 1916.
By 1913, he had abandoned traditional painting and drawing for various experimental forms, including mechanical drawings, studies, and notations that would be incorporated in a major work, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-23; also known as The Large Glass).
In 1914, Duchamp introduced his ready made common objects, sometimes altered, presented as works of art, which had a revolutionary impact upon many painters and sculptors.
In 1915, Duchamp traveled to New York, where his circle included Katherine Dreier and Man Ray, with whom he founded the Societe Anonyme in 1920, as well as Louise and Walter Arensberg, Francis Picabia, and other avant-garde figures.
After playing chess avidly for nine months in Buenos Aires, Duchamp returned to France in the summer of 1919 and associated with the Dada group in Paris.
In New York in 1920, he made his first motor-driven constructions and invented Rrose Slavy, his feminine alter ego.
Duchamp moved back to Paris in 1923 and seemed to have abandoned art for chess but in fact continued his artistic experiments.
From the mid-1930s, he collaborated with the Surrealists and participated in their exhibitions.
Duchamp settled permanently in New York in 1942 and became a United States citizen in 1955.
During the 1940s, he associated and exhibited with the Surrealist migrs in New York, and in 1946 began Etant donnes: 1. la chute d’eau 2. le gaz d’clairage, a major assemblage on which he worked secretly for the next 20 years.
He died October 2, 1968, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.
A PASSION FOR CHESS:
Marcel Duchamp had a lifelong passion for chess.
He once said “I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art – and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position.”
March 1952, Duchamp had given up painting in favor of chess thirty years before.
Marcel Duchamp played thousands of chess games, and he was known as a very strong Chess Master.
Duchamp’s creativity had a significant impact in art. One wonders how chess influenced his way of thinking and his views about art and creativity.
Duchamp once said:
“The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chess-board, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem…. I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), French artist, address, Aug. 30, 1952, New York State Chess Association.
Duchamp was not only an avid chessplayer; he was also an active member of the chess community and made multiple contributions to chess, which will also made him a chess philanthropist.
THE MOVIE – PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST: MARCEL DUCHAMP – A GAME OF CHESS (1963):
This movie is an interview segment with the French artist. Filmed in black-and-white, this interview was held at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1963. Duchamp discusses his theories on the game of chess, his expatriate status in America, and his decision to stop working after 1923.