Friday, March 26, 2010

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, Marcel Duchamp

Much like his later readymade work, such as The Fountain, Marcel Duchamp's early painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 also caused controversy when it was first exhibited. People were still used to seeing realism at the time, and the purposeful abstraction of the nude figure was scandalous in the art world. Borrowing elements of Cubism, it depicts a woman from many different, yet simultaneous angles. It also uses elements of the Futurists in giving the figure a sense of movement across the canvas. It is possible that he was also influenced by the growing medium of cinema, especially the early experiments in strobe-based photography, as the painting also contains an element of time in showing the movement of the figure down the stairs.

This painting was so controversial that it was rejected from being shown with other Cubist art of the time. His two brothers, also artists, were among the artists that asked him to either change the painting itself or have it removed form the exhibition. Duchamp was quoted as saying that it was at that point that he knew he would remain outside the traditional world of artists and critics, a quite that was proven by his continuously controversial career.

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