gallery 29    
  • MILAN GOLOB; Petra Kanzlíková (1975-2004), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×24 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Rossella Biondi (1967-1967), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Angelika Klix (1966-2006), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Elisabetta Valenta (1945-1982), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Istok Grobovšek (1988-2012), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×23 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Agnese Rauscher (1843-1922), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Amalia Kasca (1896-1999), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×24 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Serena Binotti (1896-1912), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Gabi Scherbarth (1956-1994), 2017, oil on canvas, 20×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Raymond Hains (1926-2005), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Modesta Malagola (1829-1911), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×20 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Nina Pigo (1899-1990), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Christopher Fleischer (1981-1999), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×23 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Juan Downey (1940-1993), 2017, oil on canvas, 20×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Dahlov Ipcar (1917-2017), 2017, oil on canvas, 20×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Edyta Rogowski-Dewor (1969-2016), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Alma Redlinger (1924-2017), 2017, oil on canvas, 20×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Luisa Ye Ying Bi (1995-1996), 2017, oil on canvas, 20×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Zaira Pollari Santicchi (1855-1945), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×23 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Bojan Žigante (1960-1960), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Aleksander Ludovik Čolnik (1937-2017), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Giuseppe Corbatto (1817-1907), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Breda Beban (1952-2012), 2017, oil on canvas, 20×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Viktor Tramšek (1921-1997), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Marcela Scarpa (1909-2010), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×24 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Anna Monari (1807-1894), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×20 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Marcella Argentieri (1967-1987), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Maria Bonino (1910-2012), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×24 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Bas Jan Ader (1942-1975), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×20 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Marie von Loé (1818-1896), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×23 cm
Petra Kanzlíková (1975-2004), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×24 cm

 



 

 

 

Francis M. Naumann
Affectueusement, Marcel:
Ten Letters from Marcel Duchamp to Suzanne Duchamp and Jean Crotti*

*Archives of American Art Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4. (1982), pp. 2-19.

----- Marcel Duchamp disliked writing letters. He claimed the very activity bored him to death and addressed his correspondents only when he felt it was necessary. Nevertheless, extant letters from his hand have proven to be invaluable documents, for they provide historians with the facts and details necessary for the compilation of a complete and accurate chronology of Duchamp's activities. And his letters to close friends and relatives can be of even greater significance, for they often contain candid and personal remarks that can be employed by biographers in their attempts to reveal the enigmatic personality and highly complex thinking of this important artist.[1]
----- It is for these reasons that the recent discovery of Duchamp's correspondence with his sister Suzanne and her husband, Jean Crotti, was of such significance.[2] In these letters, particularly those dating from the late Teens and early Twenties, Duchamp not only provides a detailed account of his activities but also discusses some of the most important works of art he produced in these years. Among other things, he writes of the selection and naming of several Readymades and sends occasional reports on the progress and construction of his most important work of this period, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, or, as it is more commonly known by its informal title, the Large Glass. It is with great pleasure that a selection of ten letters from this collection is presented here, fully translated, accompanied by a running commentary, notes, and supportive illustrations.[3]
----- Among the six children in the Duchamp family, Marcel (1887-1968) was closest in age and emotional attachment to his sister Suzanne (1889-1963). Inseparable companions from childhood, they continued their mutually supportive relationship without interruption throughout their lives. From early school days their interests paralleled one another. When, in 1904, Marcel decided to join his two older artist-brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, in Paris and enrolled for the study of art at the Académie Julien, the next year his sister followed suit and enrolled for a similar course of study at the École des Beaux Arts in Rouen. For the next several years, both Suzanne's and Marcel's paintings evolved through successive phases of the modern school-from Fauvism through Cubism-with Marcel always a few steps ahead of his sister. Together, in 1909-1910 they participated in the activities of the Société Normande de Peinture Moderne, an artists' group based in Rouen.[4] By the spring of 1912, when Suzanne [fig. 1] prepared to send several of her paintings for exhibition to the Salon des Indépendants, she avidly sought the advice of her older, more experienced brother. While the compartmentalized color and flatly rendered surfaces of her paintings from this period are stylistically dependent upon certain phases of Post-Impressionism, by this time Marcel had already reached a highly intricate and sophisticated level of Analytic Cubism. To this same exhibition, for example, he submitted the Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912 (Philadelphia Museum of Art), though objections from colleagues and his brothers forced him to withdraw the entry. Thus the critique he supplies of his sister's paintings—preserved in the following letter—is the gentle criticism of an older brother, who by this time was beginning to question even the most advanced artistic expressions of his day.

 

[N.B. Unless otherwise noted, information provided in brackets was added by the author. The dates for all undated letters were established on the basis of internal evidence. Words or phrases reproduced in italics preserve Duchamp's original wording. Underlined portions correspond to the words or phrases underlined by Duchamp in the original letters.]

Neuilly. Friday [c. February-March, 1912]

My dear Suzanne,
-- I just now received your three canvases in good condition:[5] Permit me not to say that I like them, nor that I find them interesting (all locutions as useless as they are meaningless). I see your drawing, [like] that of your earlier paintings, is more hidden under the harmonies of colors. You seem to be interested in the color harmonies for their own sake, for the relationship (in your portrait, for example) between the background blue and the stripes of the blouse, and not for creating atmosphere: in that respect I agree with you.
-- But I think that the relation of color to color, since it's only optical, expresses the artist less than drawing (see the Impressionists), and as it so happens you draw, unconsciously perhaps, before anything else.
-- In your "portrait" of Magdeline and Yvonne [fig. 2], there is composition and drawing ... these, I think, are your qualities and you will inevitably develop them.[6]
-- There is no plastic difference between drawing on paper and painting on canvas. The latter consists of drawing made with colors which are the different tones of your harmony in black and white (even though they are colors). Fundamental, this harmony.
-- Do not take everything that I say as advice.
-- This is only what occurred to me in front of your canvases.
-- Charly told me that you were coming for the opening.[7]
-- I will ask for your invitations at the office and will send them to you in Rouen.
-- I think that you can ask 200 F for the 2 big ones and 100 F for the still life. Answer me by return mail. So I can also write the prices on your sheet.
-- I will take them to the Indépendants on Sunday morning.
--- Affect. to Charly,
---- to all,
----- to you,
------ Marcel

Fig. 1. Suzanne Duchamp in nurse's uniform, Paris, ca. 1914-1915. Photographer unknown. Collection Mme. Marcel Duchamp, Paris.

Fig. 1. Suzanne Duchamp in nurse's uniform, Paris, ca. 1914-1915.
Photographer unknown. Collection Mme. Marcel Duchamp, Paris.


Fig. 2. Suzanne Duchamp, Intimité, 1911. Oil on canvas, approx. 65×54 cm. Private collection, Paris

Fig. 2. Suzanne Duchamp, Intimité, 1911. Oil on canvas, approx. 65×54 cm. Private collection, Paris


----- The emphasis Duchamp places on the importance of line over the optical properties of color is partly a reflection of the Cubists' preoccupation with a monochromatic palette. Yet for Duchamp, the repudiation of color's expressionistic qualities may reflect the initial stirrings of a more conceptual, anti-retinal approach to art (note his remark regarding color: "... it's only optical ..."). Although this position was not then fully crystallized in Duchamp's mind,[8] it developed rapidly in ensuing years, beginning in the spring of 1912 with a series of mechanomorphic paintings, works that would eventually reach fruition in the calculated, scientific executionof the Large Glass [fig. 3].
----- For the next three years, from 1912 through 1915, Duchamp assembled notes and sketches for the Large Glass and completed several preparatory studies for this monumental work, although he did not actually begin to execute it until after his arrival in the United States in the summer of 1915. In New York Duchamp was greeted as a celebrity, for the Nude Descending a Staircase had been the cause célèbre of the Armory Show three years earlier. Despite this acclaim, he chose to abandon the lucrative career of a painter whose fame would have virtually guaranteed success. Instead, he elected to work quietly on the Large GIass and various related projects and occasionally issued a Readymade sculpture. In Paris, Duchamp had already selected several commonplace objects for display in his studio, but it was not until shortly after his arrival in New York that he coined the term Readymade and publicly presented these objects as works of art. In this first letter from New York to survive from his correspondence with his sister, Duchamp thanks her for cleaning out his Paris studio and takes the occasion to discuss his conception of the Readymade.

Fig. 3. Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (Large Glass), 1915-1923. Oil and lead wire on glass, 277,5×175,5 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art, bequest of Katherine S. Dreier.

Fig. 3. Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (Large Glass), 1915-1923. Oil and lead wire on glass, 277,5×175,5 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art, bequest of Katherine S. Dreier.



Around 15th of January, [1916]

My dear Suzanne,
-- Thanks a lot for taking care of all my stuff—but why couldn't you have taken my studio to live in? It occurred to me just now, but I suppose that probably wouldn't do for you. In any case, the lease expires on July 15th and if you were to take it, do so only if you offer my landlord to rent it three months at a time as it's usually done; he will surely agree. Father probably wouldn't mind recovering a month's rent if it's possible for you to leave [rue] La Condamine by April 15th.—But I don't know anything about your intentions and I just wanted to suggest something to you—
-- Now, if you went up to my place you saw in my studio a bicycle wheel [fig. 4] and a bottle rack [fig. 5]. I had purchased this as a sculpture already made. And I have an idea concerning this said bottle rack: Listen.
-- Here, in N.Y., I bought some objects in the same vein and I treat them as "readymade." You know English well enough to understand the sense of "ready made" that I give these objects. I sign them and give them an English inscription. I'll give you some examples :
-- I have for example a large snow shovel upon which I wrote at the bottom: In advance of the broken arm, translation in French: En avance du bras cassé [fig. 6]. Don't try too hard to understand it in the Romantic or Impressionist or Cubist sense—that does not have any connection with it.
-- Another "readymade" is called: Emergency in favor of twice, possible translation in French: Danger (Crise) en faveur de 2 fois.[9] This whole preamble in order to actually say:
--You take for yourself this bottle rack. I will make it a "Readymade" from a distance. You will have to write at the base and on the inside of the bottom ring in small letters painted with an oil-painting brush, in silver white color, the inscription that I will give you after this, and you will sign it in the same hand as follows:
----[after] Marcel Duchamp[10]

Fig. 4. Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913 (original lost), replica of 1964. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Schwarz Galleria d'Arte.

Fig. 4. Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913 (original lost), replica of 1964. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Schwarz Galleria d'Arte.


Fig. 5. Marcel Duchamp, Bottle Rack, 1914 (original lost), replica from the collection of Man Ray. Photograph reproduced in the Boite-en-Valise, 1941-1942. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.

Fig. 5. Marcel Duchamp, Bottle Rack, 1914 (original lost), replica from the collection of Man Ray. Photograph reproduced in the Boite-en-Valise, 1941-1942. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.


Fig. 6. Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm, 1915 (original lost). Photograph of the original suspended in Duchamp's New York studio, ca. 1920, reproduced in the Boite-en-Valise 1941-1942. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.

Fig. 6. Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm, 1915 (original lost). Photograph of the original suspended in Duchamp's New York studio, ca. 1920, reproduced in the Boite-en-Valise 1941-1942. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.


----- When the following letter was written, in the winter of 1915-1916, Duchamp shared a studio in the Lincoln Arcade Building (then located on Broadway at 66th Street) with his good friend and compatriot Jean Crotti, who had recently arrived in New York accompanied by his wife Yvonne Chastel [fig. 7]. It is not known whether these French artists were acquainted before their departure for the United States, though from the time of this sojourn in New York their lifelong friendship was insured through a series of complicated personal relationships, which, four years later, resulted in Gotti's marriage to Marcel's sister Suzanne.
----- In 1915, the style of Crotti's paintings could be characterized as a somewhat unresolved mixture of Orphism and Cubism, but by the end of the year Duchamp's radical and innovative ideas had dramatically altered Crotti's comparatively conservative approach to art. Crotti was with Duchamp when he purchased the Readymade snow shovel from a hardware store on Columbus Avenue in New York,[11] and his understanding of the iconoclastic implications of such a work was clearly demonstrated at the time of an exhibition held at the Montross Gallery in April 1916, in which he, Duchamp, Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger participated (dubbed by the press "The Four Musketeers Show"). On the opening day of the exhibition, The Evening World, New York, published excerpts from an interview with Crotti and Duchamp that had taken place a few days earlier in their Lincoln Arcade studio [fig. 8]. The interviewer, a Mrs. Nixola Greeley-Smith, took the opportunity to direct some rather snide remarks at Duchamp's Nude, and her ability to understand these two "exponents of the eccentric and new in art," as she described them, was not further enhanced as a result of the interview she conducted. In addition to a long explanation of his own work, Crotti described Duchamp's shovel as the most beautiful object he had ever seen and, artistically speaking, even more interesting than a pretty girl. The interviewer was then quick to point out that these comments were made in the presence of "the very pretty Mme. Crotti," who, she noted, had remained silent through most of the session.[12]
----- Crotti's high regard for Duchamp's work and support for his ideas were even more succinctly expressed in his shockingly unconventional portrait of Duchamp [fig. 9], the most controversial work shown in the exhibition. The sculpture consisted essentially of two elements: a forehead, which gave the appearance of having been cast directly from the subject's features, and a pair of artificial eyes, all held in position by a thin wire support limning Duchamp's smiling profile. The emphasis on only two details of Duchamp's facial features—the forehead and eyes—is a clear illustration of the artistic dichotomy that was of such great concern to Duchamp in these years: namely, the intellectual or cerebral quality of the mind versus the retinal or purely visual properties of the eyes. Ultimately, it was the more conceptually oriented approach of Duchamp and Crotti that would distinguish their works in this exhibition from the more retinally oriented paintings of their Cubist colleagues.[13]
----- In the fall of 1916 Duchamp moved out of the Lincoln Arcade into a small studio adjacent to the apartment occupied by the wealthy collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, gracious patrons of the arts who had befriended Duchamp shortly after his arrival in America. A year earlier he had been their house guest for a few months before finding his own studio, and now the Arensbergs had offered to pay his rent on this small studio in exchange for ownership of the Large Glass. Informing his sister of this change in address, in this next letter he also responds to an inquiry she must have made about the Crottis, who by this time had already returned to Paris.



N.Y. October 17, 1916.

My dear Suzanne,
-- First of all, I am changing my address.
-- I'm going to get a small studio, a single room with a bath in a very nice building with studios. It is through an arrangement with one of my friends.[14]
---------- 33 West 67th Street
---------------- New York City
I already lived there last year, but at my friend's place.—
-- Thanks for moving my things. I suppose that you spoke to Father about the expenses. Otherwise, tell me how much you spent and I would be glad to write you a "check on my Paris account." —
-- Yes Crotti has left us. His wife who stayed here this summer went back to Paris. You will meet her one day—
-- I work some, but my life is a bit unsettled.
-- Of course take this engraving by Naudin.[15] Did you write the phrase on the ready made—do so—and send it (the phrase) to me indicating how you did it.[16]
-- I am writing a little to everyone at the moment. That's the thing that tires me most. It's too bad that cables cost so much.
-- They are so handy.
-- So long my dear Suzanne. Give my best regards to Henriette, to all our male and female friends at the hospital.[17]
--------------------Affectionately yours,
----------------Marcel



Fig. 7. Jean Crotti, Yvonne Chastel Crotti, and Marcel Duchamp, from the New York Tribune, 24 October 1915.

Fig. 7. Jean Crotti, Yvonne Chastel Crotti, and Marcel Duchamp, from the New York Tribune, 24 October 1915.


Fig. 8. The Evening World, 4 April 1916, p. 3.

Fig. 8. The Evening World, 4 April 1916, p. 3.


Fig. 9. Jean Crotti, Portrait of Marcel Duchamp (Sculpture Made to Measure), 1915 (original, life size, now lost). Photographer unknown. Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art.

Fig. 9. Jean Crotti, Portrait of Marcel Duchamp (Sculpture Made to Measure), 1915 (original, life size, now lost). Photographer unknown. Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art.


----- The small studio Duchamp moved into was accessible to the upper level of the Arensberg apartment by a short hallway. Soon the space was overcrowded with his Readymades and with various projects relating to work on the Large Glass, hardly presenting the impression of a traditional artist's atelier [fig. 10]. During the winter of 1916-1917, Duchamp led a rather leisurely existence for an artist of such renown, working only a few hours a day in his studio and spending most of his evenings in the company of the Arensbergs and their friends. Ever since his arrival in New York, Duchamp had been the star attraction at the many gatherings held at the Arensberg apartment, which by 1917 had developed into a virtual haven for progressive European and American artists.[18] Here artists from both sides of the Atlantic were given ample opportunity to compare their work—examples of which hung side by side on the walls of the Arensberg apartment—and they were also provided with a congenial atmosphere in which to exchange ideas and opinions concerning the exhibition and promotion of the new art in America.
----- It was in the Arensberg apartment that plans were initiated to establish a Society of Independent Artists, modeled after the French Société des Artistes Indépendants.[19] According to its governing principles, members of this new organization would be permitted to exhibit their work in an annual, jury-free exhibition. Exactly whose idea it was to establish this society is difficult to say, but one instinctively suspects Duchamp, whose tendency it was to refute all conventions of the artistic process. In fact, the object that Duchamp submitted to the first exhibition presented an open challenge to the very principles of the organization he had helped to establish. In this next letter to his sister—after inquiring about her own work and proposing the idea of showing it in New York (an exhibition that never materialized)—he reported on the fate of his notorious submission.



April 11 [1917]

My dear Suzanne—
-- Impossible to write—
-- I heard from Crotti that you were working hard. Tell me what you are making and if it's not too difficult to send. Perhaps, I could have a show of your work in the month of October or November—next—here. But tell me what you are making—Tell this detail to the family: The Independents have opened here with immense success.
-- One of my female friends under a masculine pseudonym, Richard Mutt, sent in a porcelain urinal as a sculpture [fig. 11]; it was not at all indecent no reason for refusing it.[20] The committee has decided to refuse to show this thing. I have handed in my resignation and it will be a bit of gossip of some value in New York—
-- I would like to have a special exhibition of the people who were refused at the Independents—but that would be a redundancy!
-- And the urinal would have been lonely
-- See you soon,
--------- Affect.
------------- Marcel



Fig. 10. Marcel Duchamp's studio, 33 West 67th Street, New York, ca. 1917- 1918. Photograph reproduced in the Boite-en-Valise, 1941-1942. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.

Fig. 10. Marcel Duchamp's studio, 33 West 67th Street, New York, ca. 1917-1918. Photograph reproduced in the Boite-en-Valise, 1941-1942. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.


Fig. 11. Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917 (original lost or destroyed). Photograph: Alfred Stieglitz, reproduced in The Blind Man no. 2, May 1917, p. 4. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.

Fig. 11. Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917 (original lost or destroyed). Photograph: Alfred Stieglitz, reproduced in The Blind Man no. 2, May 1917, p. 4. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.


----- While Duchamp was participating in such activities in New York, Crotti was back in Paris experiencing certain marital difficulties that may have been the direct result of his friendship with Duchamp. When Crotti returned to Paris in 1916 he was asked by Duchamp to carry messages to various members of his family, particularly to Suzanne.[21] Though the precise chronology of the personal events that followed is still unclear, we do know that it was late in 1916 or sometime during the course of 1917 that Crotti fell in love with Suzanne Duchamp, whose first marriage had ended in divorce a few years earlier. In Paris, in December 1917, Crotti's nine-and-one half-year marriage to Yvonne Chastel also ended in divorce, whereupon Yvonne packed up her bags and returned to New York, only to find herself pursuing an intimate relationship with Duchamp!
----- This next letter from the summer of 1918 is addressed to Jean, but if one can take the liberty of freely interpreting the warm message he asks Crotti to convey to Suzanne, it is likely that Duchamp was already aware of the relationship that was developing between his sister and his old friend. Meanwhile, he is writing to confirm the contents of a cable he had sent to Crotti with news of his impending departure for Buenos Aires, accompanied by Crotti s ex-wife, Yvonne! He uses the occasion to tell his friend about a few projects he is working on—providing a descriptive sketch for one of them (see the first page of this letter, [fig. 12]—and of his prospects for life in Buenos Aires.



N.Y. July 8 [1918] 33 W. 67

-- My dear Jean, Yvonne wrote to you and you got the cable announcing that I, and probably Yvonne too, are going to leave for Buenos Aires—Many reasons that you already know: Nothing serious; only a sort of fatigue on the part of the A.—[22] Some ill-disposed people probably arranged things this way. — I recently saw Lou who was very kind—Walter has just lost his mother. He is in Pittsburgh and I haven't seen him for a month. I finished the big panel for Miss Dreier [fig. 13] and I started another more interesting thing for her as well.[23] You remember those rubber bathing caps of many colors—I bought some, cut them up into small irregular strips, glued them together, not flat, up in the middle (in the air) of my studio, and, attached by strings to different walls and nails of my studio, it makes a sort of multicolored cobweb [fig. 14].


---------------------------- I have almost finished this—
------------------ If all goes the way I hope it will, there's a
----- boat leaving on August 3rd— or another around August 14th.
If the boat of August 4th is not requisitioned by the United States, we should take it; it's much less expensive: $200 direct through to Buenos Aires—the other, of the 14th will go by Panama, the Pacific, and Valparaiso, Chile, where we would take a train that crosses over to Buenos Aires in 2 days. The second one is more expensive; the trip costs almost $400—[24]
-- The first takes 27 days.
-- The second takes 21 days—including the train. I will write you a note from the boat to let you know that we left N.Y. and how!
-- We got the cable from Suzanne. And Yvonne, I think, is happy to leave—for, as you've already noticed, everything here has changed, atmosphere and all. Constraints rule—I haven't worked on my glass since you came here and I have no desire to. A different country will probably allow me to have more energy.
-- Don't speak to my family about this departure, which I want to announce only from the boat. At the same time that I write to you I will write to Rouen and Puteaux. I have a very vague intention of staying down there a long time; several years very likely—which is to say basically cutting completely with this part of the world.
-- You might have the desire to come to Buenos Aires. Maybe I'll see you there sooner than we both think.
-- —Tonight I just appeared in a little scene as a wounded soldier attended by a gorgeous nurse, in a film by Perret called Lafayette, we come. If by chance they show this film in Paris, go see it just for my little 2 minute scene.[25]
-- Yvonne hopes she can work out her business with your company through their correspondent in Buenos Aires, in such a way that, she will I think, be happy to see a sun which is less humid that that of N.Y. —[26]
-- I am going to look for French lessons down there, since I don't expect to find devotees of modern art and I have no intention of exhibiting, even though the country would probably be amusing to educate in that respect.
-- I am taking all of my papers in order to work on my glass and finish all the drawings on paper-so that if one day I ever stop by N.Y. again, I would rather rapidly be able to finish this big piece of trash.[27]
-- So long dears, kiss Suzanne for me, and tell her I am sorry not to have written her, or you for that matter.
-- When you see me again, I will have changed a great deal!
-------------- very affectionately to you both,
-------------- Marcel

As a rule, you can write to me in care of general delivery in Buenos Aires—I will go to the post office from time to time in the beginning, until I have a definite address that I can send you



Fig. 12. Letter from Marcel Duchamp to Jean Crotti, 8 July 1918, first page. Photograph: James Medley, Jr. Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art.

Fig. 12. Letter from Marcel Duchamp to Jean Crotti, 8 July 1918, first page. Photograph: James Medley, Jr. Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art.


Fig. 13. Marcel Duchamp, Tu m', 1918. Oil on canvas with brush attached, 69,8×313 cm. Photograph: Joseph Szaszfai. Yale University Art Gallery, bequest of Katherine S. Dreier.

Fig. 13. Marcel Duchamp, Tu m', 1918. Oil on canvas with brush attached, 69,8×313 cm. Photograph: Joseph Szaszfai. Yale University Art Gallery, bequest of Katherine S. Dreier.


Fig. 14. Marcel Duchamp, Sculpture for Traveling, 1918 (original lost or destroyed). Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Fig. 14. Marcel Duchamp, Sculpture for Traveling, 1918 (original lost or destroyed). Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


----- After almost two months of adjusting to new life in the Argentine capital, Duchamp began a campaign of letter writing to his friends in New York, hoping to enlist their assistance in the organization of an exhibition of Cubist paintings he planned to present in Buenos Aires. He wrote to Arensberg about his plans for this showing, informing him that he wanted to include only works that would be available for sale and thus would not be asking him to send anything from his collection. He added that, according to his principles, nothing of his own production would be shown and, should requests arise, he also asked Arensberg to not lend any of his (Duchamp's) work to exhibitions in New York.[28] In this next letter to Crotti he asks for his friend's help, requesting some books and related publicity on modern art so as to educate the Argentinians in these matters, and he uses the occasion to describe the sharp contrast between the art and social life of Buenos Aires and that of New York. The letter ends with separate postscripts from Yvonne and Marcel, acknowledging their receipt of a cable announcing the death of Marcel's brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon.


-------Buenos Aires October 26 - 1918

-- Dear Jean, I am adapting to the climate, with difficulty, because the way of life of the Argentines is so different from that of New Yorkers. No public dancing—The few night clubs look like the filthy 3rd rate clubs of Montmartre whores.[29] Night life doesn't have the extent of N.Y. And moreover, well brought up women don't even go to night clubs. So Yvonne is now deprived of her night life.
-- Such different ways of doing things—marvelous food ... so much so that I noticed it!!! As I think I told you before, there is not a trace of Cubism or any other modern lucubrations.
-- So I thought that I could possibly organize a small exhibition of the Cubists for next May—June (because here winter starts in June). Have about 30 canvases shipped from N.Y. and perhaps awaken these sleepy dark faces (Here we are under the reign of Guirand de Scévola ingested by Besnard.)[30]
-- I am writing to N.Y. by the same mail to see how the shipment can be handled. But you, for your part, could you do me a favor?
-- In order to enlighten these brave souls, the critics and others, I realize that the books of Apolliniare and of Metzinger on Cubism could spare me a lot of discourse.
-- Could you then please get together about ten copies of Du Cubisme by Gleizes and Metzinger?
-- About ten of the Cubist Painters by G. Apollinaire and send them to me—
-- Now, if you can get to see Figuière[31] and convince him that a free shipment of 30 copies of each of these 2 books could be sold here and make some publicity for his company (I would take the responsibility to distribute and sell them). This second, more elegant solution would save you the trouble of advancing any money.
-- Also, besides these 2 books, could you find 5 or 6 copies of Mallarmé's Coup de Dés (published by the Nouvelle Revue Françise), and a few journals dealing with Cubism [for Les Soirkes de Paris see Apollinaire), in short, a bit of literature that would accompany the exhibition and give a better impact.
--You will get this letter around January 1st. Take your time and try to mail the shipment at the end of January so that I would get it towards the end of March.
-- Everything sent to—M. Duchamp
------------Alsina 1743. Dep.to 2
---------------- Buenos Aires
-- I started a small glass [fig. 15] to experiment with an effect that I will carry over to the large glass—when I return to N.Y.[32]
-- Myself, I have no intention of exhibiting here. I have seen a few painters. Nothing—just a sort of drowsiness—strange sort these Latins.
-- I was thinking of getting your clown shipped from N.Y. to show here.[33] I think that having the glass sent would be too dangerous for it.
-- So there you go, old friend. Write, and by the way if you've done anything new, send it here and I'll put it in the show. I won't ask you to go see other painters to get anything from them to come from France. It's too much work for you and they really wouldn't be cooperative (Not to mention the law against shipping paintings).
-- Hug Suzanne. Is she working? She should send me photos of what she's done. The last news almost made me hope we would see each other soon.— Well, good bye dearies.
Lots of hugs ------ Yvonne ------ Marcel
-- Jean, Darling. Lots of kisses and hug Suzanne for me. I am very upset by the news.
-------------- Yvonne


Received the horrible cable just before sending this letter.[34] Tell Suzanne of my despair in being so far from you all in such a circumstance. I cannot believe it, all the more so because I haven't seen him for so long—and then he was in good health. I hope the family can bear up!!!
------- God be with you again and very cordially,
-------------- Marcel



Fig. 15. Marcel Duchamp, To be Looked at [From the Other Side of the Glass] with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour, 1918. Oil paint, silver leaf, lead wire, and magnifying lens on glass, 49,5×39,7 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, bequest of Katherine S. Dreier. Photograph of the work unframed, taken in Buenos Aires in 1918-1919. Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery, Société Anonyme Collection.

Fig. 15. Marcel Duchamp, To be Looked at [From the Other Side of the Glass] with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour, 1918. Oil paint, silver leaf, lead wire, and magnifying lens on glass, 49,5×39,7 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, bequest of Katherine S. Dreier. Photograph of the work unframed, taken in Buenos Aires in 1918-1919. Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery, Société Anonyme Collection.


----- During the first few months of 1919 Duchamp began to pursue a more serious interest in chess,[35] a game that had captivated his attention since his early teens. He began a careful study of recorded games and joined a local chess club, where he took lessons from one of its best players. As his interest in chess increased, his hopes to stage an exhibition of Cubist paintings in Buenos Aires dwindled, due primarily to a lack of cooperation from two of his French friends-Gleizes and Henri-Martin Barzun—who apparently never responded to his letters and cables.[36] By early March, Yvonne became so bored by the lack of activity in Buenos Aires that she decided to return to Paris, which provided Duchamp with sufficient incentive once again to address a letter to his old friend in Paris, which he asked Yvonne to hand-deliver to her former husband.


Buenos Aires Sunday March 9 [1919]

My dear Jean. Yvonne is leaving the day after tomorrow, on Tuesday, and I will give you, as I leave her in good health, this little note—in the middle of her luggage.
-- I insisted that she not leave. But her little will power and my desire not to counteract any sort of whim, resulted in her deciding to go.
-- Life here wasn't very lively for her although she did join the consular circle towards the end and met important personalities from B. A. I was able to work a lot with no cafe life or evenings out. I have thrown myself into the game of chess. I belong to the local club and, out of 24 hours in a day, I spend a good number there.
-- Getting to bed late, getting up late too. I am thinking of taking a boat in June and will meet you all in Paris; if I am able to stay for a long time I will work a little but I suspect that this stay will be short. Then I am thinking of going back to N.Y.
-- The exhibition that I had planned here will most probably not take place—which will enable me to return to France a little sooner.
Do you have any spare time to realize your fantasies? And Suzanne, did she get any work done? I can't wait to see you all again and how you must have changed after 4 years. I grew a little older. I was losing my hair some time ago but a powerful treatment of Yvonne's and a crew cut seem to have saved it for a while.
-- So long old friend. Hug Suzanne well for me and see you soon.
------------ Very affectionately
---------------- Marcel

Thanks a lot for the books on Cubism, and I am very happy that Figuière didn't send any more since all these projects to Cubify B.A. are shattered (as they say in Spanish, which I don't speak).


----- At just about the time when he should have received the preceding letter—in April of 1919—Crotti married Suzanne Duchamp. Upon hearing of their marriage, Duchamp wrote to the newlywed couple, sending his wedding present in the form of written instructions for the execution of a Readymade. Although this particular letter is, curiously, missing from their extant correspondence,[37] we know from later interviews with Duchamp that this Readymade was to consist of "... a geometry book, which he [Crotti] had to hang by strings on the balcony of his apartment in the Rue La Condamine; the wind had to go through the book, choose its own problems, turn and tear out the pages."[38] While the original Readymade was doubtless destroyed by the elements, its appearance is preserved in a photograph of the suspended textbook [fig. 16] and in a painting by Suzanne, which she titled Le Ready-made malheureux de Marcel [Marcel's Unhappy Readymade] [fig. 17], a work dating from a year later and based on an inverted image of the photograph.[39]
----- In keeping with his plans, on June 22, 1919, Duchamp boarded the S.S. Highland Pride and set sail for Europe. He must have been pleased by the prospect of rejoining his family, particularly his newlywed sister and brother-in-law. But the Paris Duchamp left four years earlier had changed considerably; the war had taken its toll in lives—numbering Apollinaiare and Duchamp's brother Raymond among its victims—and the art scene could no longer be characterized as a battle for or against the Cubists and Cubism. Rather, in what could be considered a postponed reaction to the atrocities of war, a group of French artists rallied under the battle cry of Dada,[40] a rebellious literary and artistic movement founded years earlier in Zürich. Despite the fact that at this time Duchamp was the house guest of Francis Picabia—then one of Dada’s chief proselytizers and ringleaders in Paris—Duchamp refused to partake officially in any of their organized activities. After only five months of renewed acquaintanceship with his fellow countrymen in Paris, in December of 1919 Duchamp headed back to New York, to rejoin the activities of his American friends.
----- But upon his arrival in January of 1920, Duchamp discovered that the war had left its destructive mark on America as well. Many galleries for the display of modern art closed during the war, and the closely knit unit of friends who congregated at the Arensberg apartment had largely dispersed. Perhaps as a direct result of the sparsity of social activities, this year in New York marked one of the most productive phases in Duchamp's career: he began experiments in optics and film, completed the construction of a large motor-driven machine [fig. 18], and, with Man Ray and Katherine Dreier, founded the Société Anonyme, Inc., the first museum in the United States devoted to the display and promotion of modem art.[41] And his interest in chess reached a new high as he engaged in professional competition as a member of the Marshall Chess Club. A full account of these and other activities is provided in this next letter to his sister and brother-in-law, written from his residence in the old Lincoln Arcade Building where he had shared a studio with Crotti some four years earlier.


N.Y. around October 20th [1920]. I must really have something to ask of you if I am writing (this is so you won't have to say it.)
-- Dear old friend, dear Suzanne. I have been meaning to write to you for 6 months. But writing letters bugs the hell out of me ... etc. etc.
-- Not much new here.—The Société Anonyme is a gallery where one exhibits without selling. It costs 25 cents to get in. My original idea was to have the critics pay 50 cents. But they don't come anyway. Apart from this, it's the only thing of interest in N.Y.—Nothing else. DeZayas is now a traveling salesman for paintings. (All periods, all types).[42] Our friend Coady has disappeared from circulation.[43]
-- Montross I haven't seen for 2 years.[44] The Independents are having their annual exhibition.
-- In any case, I think that painting is not so interesting that people ought to devote themselves to it any more than I already have.
-- Walter is well and is working like a madman on his Dante, which threatens to never get finished.[45] I don't go there as often as I used to. Fewer or no meetings like the famous ones. —From time to time we drink, a lot if we want, but it's too expensive for me.[46] (By the way, I saw Bibily [?] a month ago.[47] It was the first time since the famous shipment. He swore to god that he never received anything—
-- It's probably true.
-- In any case, thank you old friend, and you too Suzanne, for having sent the "liquor" and a belated apology for bothering you so with that thing.
-- I really don't drink anymore, but that doesn't put weight on. I get to bed between 4 and 5 A.M. —I have trouble getting up before 1 P.M.
-- Have many lessons [The winter season is beginning again].[48]
-- I made a "monocle" [fig. 18] —It's a thing that spins very fast with an electric motor—very dangerous—almost killed Man Ray with it. I hope to take pictures of it and send you some.[49]————I've got a "Moving Picture Camera!" I've had it for six months—but it costs so much (the film) that I must space out my cinemagraphic outpourings.
-- I'm feeling less bored today than usual. Make the most of it—
-- Alice is in Long Beach (or was) with her husband, whom I don't know.[50]
-- Beatrice is also married [and] really gets herself into predicaments at times.[51]
-- I liked the photo very much of the Ready Made sitting there on the balcony [fig. 16]. When it all falls apart you can replace it. (Oh! That's right, you've moved).
-- I also work on my large glass (I scratched out a mirrored design on it after the engraving that Yvonne has at her house) —[52]
-- As for chess? Great, Great! I played a lot in simultaneous matches that Marshall held, playing on 12 boards at a time. And I won my match 2 times.
-- I've made enormous progress and I work like a slave. Not that I have any chance of becoming champion of France, but I will have the pleasure of being able to play almost any player, in a year or two.
-- Naturally this is the part of my life that I enjoy most.
-- This winter I will be on Marshall's team (his 8 best players) against the other N.Y. teams. Just as I had already done last winter—but this time I'm hoping to win a few games (which I didn't then)—I am crazy about it
-- Something else—I am about to launch on the market a new form of chess sets, the main features of which are as follows:
-- The Queen is a combination of a Rook and of a Bishop—The Knight is the same as the one I had in South America. So is the Pawn. The King too.
-- 2nd They will be colored like this.
-- The white Queen will be light green.
-- " black " " " dark "
The Rooks will be blue, light and dark.
The Bishops " " yellow, " " "
-- The Knights red, light and dark.
-- White King and Black King
-- White and Black Pawns
-- Please notice that the Queen in her color is a combination of the Bishop and of the Rook (just as she is in her movements) —
-- 3rd I am going to ask Marshall if I can use his name and call them Marshall's Chessmen. I will give him 10% of the receipts.
-- 4th They will be made out of cast plaster mixed with glue, which will make them as sturdy as wooden pieces. (Perhaps your stone might be useful; I will send you a set as soon as it's ready and you can experiment with it if you like)—
-- But I haven't talked about you; how are you my old friend? I hope you're not angry with me for not writing for so long, but writing really bugs the hell out of me.
-- So long my children; I am going to write to Puteaux. I'm still planning on going to France in July 1921. Tell me something of what you're making————
-- Oh! I almost forgot the actual point of my letter:
---- Carl Van Vechten[53] bought a book called :
------ G. de Cherville:
-------- "Chiens et Chats d'Eugène Lambert.
He paid 30 fr. for the book and they asked him 32 fr. to ship it.—If it is possible to send it by mail, could you take care of it by going to Albert Lefrançois, 8 rue de Rome ? (The letter he wrote to Carl is enclosed.) If it is not possible by mail, could you give it to someone who is coming here, to spare him the 32 frs. for shipping? He will naturally pay you back for your "expenditures."
-- Carl already wrote to Lefrançois so he should give the book (paid by him) to the bearer of the enclosed letter. So, as you can see it's not too complicated; and less than the bottle of Whisky.
-- One of these days I'm going to get drunk.
------ Affectionatley yours, to you both,
---------- Marcel
-------- 1947 Broadway
---------- Room 316
-------------- N.Y. City
The old building is well, as always, and sends its regards.



Fig. 16. Marcel Duchamp, Unhappy Readymade, 1919-1920 (original destroyed). Photographer unknown. Photograph from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Camfield.

Fig. 16. Marcel Duchamp, Unhappy Readymade, 1919-1920 (original destroyed). Photographer unknown. Photograph from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Camfield.

 

Fig. 17. Suzanne Duchamp, Le Ready-Made Malheureux de Marcel [Marcel's Unhappy Readymade], 1920. Oil on canvas, 81×60 cm. Collection Professor Guido Rossi, Milan.

Fig. 17. Suzanne Duchamp, Le Ready-Made Malheureux de Marcel [Marcel's Unhappy Readymade], 1920. Oil on canvas, 81×60 cm. Collection Professor Guido Rossi, Milan.
--
--


Fig. 18. Marcel Duchamp, Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics), 1920. Motorized optical device: painted glass plates, wood and metal braces, metal axis, 184×120 cm. Photographed in Duchamp's studio, 246 West 73rd Street, New York, 1920. Photographer: Man Ray. Yale University Art Gallery, gift of the Société Anomyme.

Fig. 18. Marcel Duchamp, Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics), 1920. Motorized optical device: painted glass plates, wood and metal braces, metal axis, 184×120 cm. Photographed in Duchamp's studio, 246 West 73rd Street, New York, 1920. Photographer: Man Ray. Yale University Art Gallery, gift of the Société Anomyme.


----- During Duchamp's absence from Paris the art scene was overtaken by an onslaught of Dadaist activities. Early in 1920 Tristan Tzara came from Zürich to join André Breton, Picabia, and others in presenting the Parisian public with a series of mock performances, outlandish exhibitions, and intentionally abrasive publications. During the 1920 Dadaist season both Suzanne Duchamp and Jean Crotti continued to assume a position rather detached from these Dadaist activities, but in January of 1921 they openly declared their allegiance to this radical group by adding their signatures to a Dadaist tract and, later in the year, by participating in two mock events staged by the Parisian Dadaists. At Tzara's urging, in preparation for the grand Salon Dada, to be held at the Galerie Montaigne in June, they wrote to their infamous relative in New York requesting his participation. His response, preserved in the following letter, emphatically reiterates the position he had maintained against the showing of his work.


----- May 19 1921 N.Y.

Thanks for sending the book. I'll look out for it. You know very well that I have nothing to show—and that to me the word show sounds like the word marriage.[54]
-- Consequently, don't expect anything and don't worry. Thanks anyhow for having thought of me.
-- This Dada exhibition will be very amusing for me—here, Nothing at all but the city itself. The least entertainment costs a lot now, and boozing has become very high brow.
-- I wait until I'm out at sea (3 miles out) to drink a cocktail at normal prices, or cocktails at a normal price.
-- I leave on the "France" on June 9th and I plan to stop in Rouen for a day or two before visiting Paris.
-- I have seen Peter Juley and I have 2 photos of the head—I am going to see Sheeler for the clown.[55]
-- Will see about the records for you and Mad.
-- Your catalogue is wonderful. What kind of success did you have with it? I regret that I wasn't there. What kind of paintings do you buy and sell ? Are you in contact with de Zayas?——He is one of the big handlers of modern and antique art here.[56]
-- If you are in need of an employee, perhaps I could qualify for the job.
------ See you both soon—
---------- Affect.
--------------Marcel


----- In response to what must have been a second request to show at the Salon Dada, on June 1, 1921, Duchamp fired off a two-word cable which read simply "PODE BAL"—loosely translated, "Balls to you." Crotti dutifully passed this on to the exhibition's organizers, who were forced to hang blank placards in the spaces reserved for Duchamp's work.[57] In keeping with the plans mentioned in the preceding letter, Duchamp sailed on the France in June and spent the next six months in Paris sharing quarters with Jean and Suzanne on Rue La Condamine. At this time the Crottis were still strongly associated with Dada, though Jean was then just beginning to develop ideas on a movement of his own making, which he called Tabu.[58]
----- Apparently these movements and organizations held little interest for Duchamp, who by November had so tired of the activities in his native country that he wrote the Arensbergs, "I've already had enough of Paris and of France in general," adding that he planned to return to New York by mid-January.[59] On January 28, 1922, Duchamp sailed on the S.S. Aquitania and arrived in New York about three weeks later. This sojourn in America, however, lasted for only about a year and, except for occasional travel in Europe and a few brief trips abroad, Duchamp remained in France for the next twenty years. His close proximity to the Crottis in Paris explains the sparsity of their correspondence from this period, but a second important exchange of letters followed upon Duchamp's final move to New York in 1942, where he settled for the rest of his life. The last letter presented here dates from this period and, although it falls outside the context of the early Cubist and Dadaist periods, it is included because it provides an excellent example of Crotti's continued respect for and reliance upon the thoughts and opinions of his famous brother-in-law.
----- Written to satisfy Crotti's quest, the major portion of this letter is devoted to an evaluation of Crotti's work, which at the time concerned itself with themes and images of a predominately religious nature. As in the criticism he provided for his sister's paintings some forty years earlier—in the first of the ten letters published here—Duchamp's comments are tactful and reserved. Rather than focus specifically on Crotti's work, his remarks are more philosophically directed to the futility of an artist's attempt to assess the intrinsic value of his own art. Some of the ideas he touched upon would be more fully developed in "The Creative Act," a lecture Duchamp delivered at a convention of the American Federation of Arts in Houston, Texas, in April of 1957.[60] But unlike the many statements issued in public lectures and interviews, his remarks in the following letter reveal the straightforward and unguarded opinion of an artist who devoted his art and life to challenging all levels of the artistic process.


----- August 17, [19]52

----- Dear Jean Dear Suzanne
-- You must have asked yourself what I was doing after having sent me your long letter about the Sweeney exhibition![61]
-- Completely in agreement with you——without forgetting that Sweeney had to organize the entire exhibition in 6 weeks (before the opening), I know that he was unable to do anything but an approximation, and unfortunately, too much according to his own taste (which by the way isn't bad).
-- I remember that in our conversations with him on this subject, I had suggested to him the idea of giving at least a little panel (very little) to Dada, which is one of the definite manifestations of the last 50 years—he did nothing about it, naturally.
-- Related to this, Janis is organizing a Dada exhibition for March or April 1953—he is entrusting me with the organization of the ideas for this exhibition[62]—and for the Parisian aspect, I would like to have your clown on glass (made in N.Y.?).[63] If you want to send it right away with Martha Pelletier's son,[64] who is leaving for N.Y. on the Queen Mary on Sept. 3rd, perhaps you will still have time. In any case it isn't urgent——I feel that it's better to send it with someone.————In fact, Rose Fried will be able to bring it back upon her return in October.[65]
-- Suzanne, do you still have any Dada drawings or watercolors that you would like to show? Give them to Rose Fried.
-- If you think of anything else from the same period, tell me.
-- Thanks for the articles from Switzerland and from Carrouges,[66] to whom I haven't yet written.
-- Katherine Dreier's sister, Mary Dreier, gave me for you and Gaby 2 beautiful Spanish shawls as souvenirs——I am having them brought to you by Rose Fried (she is leaving Sept. 12th; I'll tell you the boat another time). You will decide, Gaby and you, which one suits whom. You can thank Mary Dreier after you receive them.
---- Miss Mary Dreier 24 West 55th St. New York.
-- You ask my opinion of your work, my dear Jean. It's a lengthy thing to say in just a few words—and especially from me who has no faith at all——of the religious sort——in artistic activity as a social value.
-- Artists of all times are like the gamblers of Monte Carlo, and this blind lottery allows some to succeed and ruins others. In my opinion neither the winners nor the losers are worth worrying about. It's a good personal deal for the winner and a bad one for the loser.
-- I do not believe in painting, in itself. A picture is not made by the painter but by those who look at it and grant it their favors; in other words, there does not exist a painter who knows himself or knows what he is doing-there is no exterior sign that explains why a Fra Angelico and a Leonardo are equally "recognized."
-- Everything happens through pure luck. Artists who during their life time have known how to make their shoddy goods appreciated are excellent traveling salesmen, but nothing guarantees the immortality of their work. And even posterity is a real bitch who cheats some, reinstates others (El Greco), and is also free to change its mind every 50 years.
-- This long preamble in order to advise you not to judge your work, for you are the last to see it (with real eyes). That which you see in it is not what makes its worth or lack of it. All the words that will be used to explain or praise it are false translations of what happens beyond sensations.
-- You are, like all of us, fogged by an accumulation of principles or anti-principles, which generally embroil your mind by their terminology and without knowing it, you are the prisoner of an education that you believe to be liberated.
-- In your particular case you are certainly the victim of the "School of Paris," that fine joke that has lasted for 60 years (the students award the prizes to themselves, in money).
-- In my opinion there is salvation only in an esoteric——now, after 60 years we have witnessed a public exhibition of our balls and multiple hard-ons. The grocer of Lyon speaks in knowing terms and buys modern paintings.
-- American museums want at any price to teach modern art to young students who believe in a "chemical formula."
-- All that produces only the vulgarization and complete disappearance of the original fragrance.[67]
-- This does not deny what I was saying above, for I believe in the original fragrance, but like all fragrances, it evaporates very quickly (some weeks, some years at most); what remains is a dried nut, classified by historians in the chapter "history of art."
-- So if I tell you that your paintings have nothing in common with what one generally sees classified and accepted, that you have always known how to produce things which are entirely your own, as I truly believe, that does not mean that you have the right to sit down next to Michelangelo.
-- What is more, this originality is suicidal, in the sense that it removes you from a "clientele" accustomed to "copies of copyists," what is often called "tradition."
-- Another thing, your technique is not the "expected" technique. It is your personal technique borrowed from no one——by this as well, the clientele is not won over.
-- Obviously, if you had applied your Monte Carlo system to your painting, all these difficulties would have been transformed into victories; you could have even created a new school of techniques and originality.
-- I shall not speak to you of your sincerity because that is the common weal, the most ordinary and the least valid. All liars, all bandits are sincere.
Insincerity does not exist. The malicious are sincere and succeed through their malice, but all their being is made up of malicious sincerity.
-- In 2 words, use less self-analysis and work with pleasure without worrying about opinions, yours and those of others.
---------------------------Affectionately,
-----------------------------------Marcel


*Archives of American Art Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4. (1982), pp. 2-19.



Notes:

The publication of this article coincides with an exhibition, TABU DADA, Jean Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp, 1915-1920, organized by William A. Camfield and Jean-Hubert Martin. The exhibition will open in January 1983 at the Kunsthalle, Bern, and is scheduled to travel later in the year to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. Professor Camfield provided me with a manuscript copy of his essay for the catalog that will accompany this exhibition, from which I have freely derived biographical information on Suzanne Duchamp and Jean Crotti. The reader is directed to this catalog for a more complete study of these artists and their work.

[1] An anthology of Duchamp letters is being prepared by Anne d'Harnoncourt. It is urged that individuals in possession of original letters written to or from Marcel Duchamp send copies to Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director, Philadelphia Museum of Art, P.O. Box 7646, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101. Mme. Marcel Duchamp and Miss d'Harnoncourt have kindly endorsed and encouraged the publication of the ten Duchamp letters presented here.
[2] It was through the kindness and generosity of Professor Camfield of Rice University that the author was first directed to the location of these papers in the collection of Alice Buckles-Brown, Berkeley, California. The material in this collection—letters, photographs, scrapbooks and unpublished manuscripts—was subsequently donated by Ms. Buckles-Brown to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
[3] The author owes a debt of gratitude to the following individuals, all of whom contributed in varying degrees to the translation of these letters: Patrice Lefrançois, Anne d'Harnoncourt, Sidney Geist, Patricia Watson-Jungmann and William Camfield. The responsibility for any flaws that may be found in these translations, however, rests entirely with the author, who served as their final editor.
[4] This group stressed the interrelationship of the arts. It was founded by Pierre Dumont and Robert Pinchon, and although it was based in Rouen, many Parisian artists participated in its activities and exhibitions (see William A. Camfield, Francis Picabia, His Art, Life and Times, [Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979], p. 24).
[5] The Salon des Indépendants was held from March 20 to May 16, 1912; according to the catalog, the following three paintings were exhibited by Suzanne Desmares [Suzanne Duchamp]: 917. Portrait; 918. Intimité; and 919. A des Esseintes (fleurs) (information provided by William Camfield).
[6] The "portrait" of Suzanne's sisters to which Duchamp refers is probably the painting titled Intimité, illustrated here, shown as entry number 918 in the Salon des Indtpendants of 1912 (see previous note).
[7] Charles Desmares was a Rouen pharmacist, to whom Suzanne was married for three years, from 1911 through 1914.
[8] Sixty years later Duchamp acknowledged that he intuitively rejected the retinal basis of abstract painting and only "figured" out why afterward. (Interview with Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, [New York: Viking, 1971], p. 43).
[9] This Readymade is lost and no record remains of its original appearance.
[10] Brackets are Duchamp's. What Duchamp did not know at the time of this writing is that his sister had probably already discarded the bottle rack—a fate common to many of the early Readymades—when she cleared out his studio (reported by Duchamp in his interview with Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, p. 47).
[11] Information provided by William Camfield.
[12] Though it is doubtful that Crotti's comments were directed at his wife——as this interviewer's remarks might have us believe——it is worth noting that in the following year their marriage would end in divorce.
[13] In a letter to Crotti (Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art) Gleizes voiced his strong disapproval of the titles Crotti had given to his works, fearing they could cause a scandal that would implicate all of the artists showing in the exhibition (letter inscribed simply "Monday night" and, based on internal evidence, dating from early April, 1916). For further discussion of this letter and the controversy see William Camfield, TABU DADA.
[14] According to surviving account ledgers for the building, on November 30, 1916, Arensberg began paying a monthly rent of $58.33 for the Duchamp studio, which continued through to October 31, 1918 (documents kindly made available for the author's inspection by Mr. Peter Rose).
[15] Bernard Naudin (1876-1946), French illustrator and engraver who worked in a manner reminiscent of Rembrandt and Goya. He was best known for his illustrations of books by Diderot and François Villon, as well as his illustrations that appeared in the various Parisian journals around the turn of the century.
[16] Apparently Suzanne had not yet informed her brother that the Readymade had been discarded when she cleared out his studio (see n. 10 above).
[17] During the war years Suzanne moved to Paris and worked as a nurse in a military hospital (see fig. 9).
[18] On the Arensberg salon see Francis Naumann, "Walter Conrad Arensberg: Poet, Patron, and Participant in the New York Avant-Garde, 1915-20," Philadelphia Museum of .4rt, Bulletin, vol. 76, no. 328, Spring 1980.
[19] Although it was predominantly members of the Arensberg group who were responsible for the organization of this society, Arensberg's name is curiously absent from the list of organizers that appeared on the initial announcement sent to artists in January of 1917 (information kindly provided by Garnett McCoy in a letter to the author, 21 December 1981). For a full account of the society's 1917 exhibition, see Francis M. Naumann, Part I, "The Big Show: The First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists," Artforum 17, no. 6 (February 1979), pp. 34-39; Part II, "The Critical Response," Artforum 17, no. 8, (April 1979) pp. 49-53.
[20] This is our first knowledge of the fact that Duchamp originally intended this work to have been submitted by a woman, and it is curious that at this time he does not even acknowledge to his sister that the entry was actually his own. Apparently, Duchamp kept his identity a closely guarded secret until later in the month, after the appearance of The Blind Man magazine, where the item in question was first provided an adequate public defense.
[21] According to Robert Lebel (Marcel Duchamp, [New York: Grove Press, 1959], p. 45), after their meeting in Paris, "Crotti went back to New York to be divorced and from there he wrote Suzanne a series of love letters in the Dada style." No letters of such a description, however, survive among their papers.
[22] "... the A[rensbergs]"
[23] Katherine S. Dreier was an artist, author, and an ardent supporter of modern art, who became fascinated with Duchamp and his work from the time of their meeting when the Independents Society was being organized (on Dreier, see Ruth L. Bohan, "Katherine Sophie Dreier and New York Dada," Arts magazine 51, no. 9, [May 19771: pp. 97-101 and n. 41 below).
[24] The boat Duchamp and Yvonne finally took was the S.S. Crofton Hall, which left New York on August 13, 1918.
[25] This film starred the American actor E. K. Lincoln and the Italian actress Dolores Cassinelli, and was shot in New York in the summer of 1918 by the French film director Léonce Perret (1880-1935). According to information provided by a journalist who attended a day's shooting of this film, the French government lent its official sanction to the production of this picture and chose it as a means to convey their appreciation for America's participation in the war (see Ethel Roseman, "The Extra Girl Looks into E. K. Lincoln's Eyes, and—!," Motion Picture Classics 7, no. 2, [October, 1918]: 41). In the journals of Henri-Pierre Roché (Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin), there is evidence that Walter Arensberg had a part in financing Perret's projects in 1918, and this may have been the reason for Duchamp's cameo appearance. To date, attempts to locate a copy of this film in both American and European film repositories have been unsuccessful.
[26] Crotti's company was a business involved with the sale of coal (information provided by William Camfield).
[27] Duchamp's exact words were "... cette grande saloperie."
[28] Duchamp to Arensberg, 8 November 1918, The Francis Bacon Library, Claremont, California.
[29] Duchamp's exact words were "... boites de 3eme ordre du Montmartre grues infâmes."
[30] Duchamp's exact words were "... Guirand de Scévola sucé par Besnard." Duchamp must have considered these two artists typical examples of academic and sentimental taste. De Scévola (Victor Lucien, 1874-1950) was a French painter known for his portraits, genre scenes and landscapes of Versailles; during the First World War he organized and commanded a French camouflage unit. Albert Besnard (1849-1934) was a well known student of Alexandre Cabanel, who from the time he won the Prix de Rome in 1874 had established a considerable reputation in Paris as an academic painter. His allegories and historical scenes from the 1890s decorate several public buildings in Paris.
[31] Eugène Figuière, French book publisher, noted for his publication of Gleizes and Metzinger's Cubisme (1912) and Apollinaire's Les Peintres Cubistes (1913), as well as for his many editions of avant-garde poetry.
[32] This small glass is a detailed study for a section of the Large Glass, only portions of which were incorporated into the final work.
[33] The Clown, 1916, is a glass and wire construction by Crotti now in the collection of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris; for an illustration and discussion of this work see William Camfield, TABU DADA.
[34] Raymond Duchamp-Villon died in a Cannes military hospital on October 9, 1918.
[35] Duchamp to Arensberg, 7 January 1919, The Francis Bacon Library, Claremont, California. In this same letter Duchamp describes a set of rubber stamps he has designed in order to facilitate playing chess through the mail.
[36] So Duchamp reports to Arensberg in a letter dated "end of March, 1919," The Francis Bacon Library, Claremont, California.
[37] The absence of this letter may have been the result of its removal from the location where the Crottis usually stored their correspondence with Duchamp, in order to follow more carefully his instructions for the execution of this work. Or perhaps Suzanne removed it in 1920 to aid in the composition of her painting (?).Whatever the case may have been, thus far efforts to locate the present whereabouts of this letter have been unsuccessful.
[38] Interview with Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, p. 61.
[39] This observation was made by Professor Camfield, who also discovered the photograph of the original Readymade (see his essay in the catalogue TABU DADA). Formerly, this Readymade was known to us only through Suzanne Duchamp's painting and an altered photograph incorporated in Duchamp's Boite-en-Valise of 1941-1942.
[40] On Parisian Dada, see the definitive study by Michel Sanouillet, Dada à Paris (Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1965); for the participation of the Crottis, see the account provided by Camfield, TABU DADA.
[41] On the Société Anonyme, see Selected Publications of the Société Anonyme (The First Museum of Modern Art), 3 vols. (New York: Arno Press, 1972); and Ruth L. Bohan, The Société Anonyme's Brooklyn Exhibition: Katherine Dreier, and Modernism in America (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1982). A complete catalog of the Société Anonyme collection by Robert L. Herbert and Eleanor Apter is scheduled for publication in the spring of 1983.
[42] Marius de Zayas, (1880-1961), the Mexican caricaturist, author and gallery director, made frequent trips to Paris in this period, buying and selling works of art. See de Zayas, "How, When, and Why Modern Art Came to New York," introduction and notes by Francis Naumann, Arts Magazine 54, no. 8 (April 1980) 96-126; and Douglas Hyland, Marius de Zayas: Conjurer of Souls, (Lawrence, Kansas: Spencer Museum of Art, 1981).
[43] Robert J. Coady (1876-1912), gallery director and editor of Soil magazine. Little is known of Coady's activities from the close of his gallery in 1919 to the time of his death in 1921 (see Judith K. Zilczer, "Robert J. Coady, Forgotten Spokesman for Avant-Garde Culture in America," American Art Review, 2, [November-December 1975]: 77-89).
[44] Newman Emerson Montross (1849-1932) was an art dealer who had opened a gallery under his name in 1885 and after the Armory Show began showing European and American modernists. It was in 1916 at his gallery on Fifth Avenue that the "Four Musketeers Exhibition" was held, in which Duchamp and Crotti participated (on Montross see Judith Zilczer, " 'The World's New Art Center,' Modern Art Exhibitions in New York City, 1913-1918," Archives of American Art Journal 14, no. 3 [1974]: 4-5).
[45] Arensberg was then busily preparing the manuscript for his book The Cryptography of Dante (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921). On Arensberg's obsession with cryptography, see Francis M. Naumann, "Cryptography and the Arensberg Circle," Arts Magazine, 51, no. 9 [May 1977] : 127-133.
[46] The Volstead Act, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which became law in October 1919 and was repealed in December 1933, prohibited the importation, manufacture, and sale of alcoholic beverages within the United States except for medicinal and sacramental purposes. Smuggled spirits, provided by bootleggers, were very costly.
[47] According to the recollections of Louise Varese, who was a good friend of Duchamp and the Arensbergs in those years, Bibily was a man who worked in the French Embassy in New York at this time (information provided in conversation, November 1982).
[48] Brackets added by Duchamp. On occasion Duchamp earned pocket money by giving French lessons.
[49] The incident Duchamp refers to occurred when he and Man Ray first attempted to photograph this optical device in motion, and the belt broke away from the motor and caught in the glass blades of the machine, causing them to shatter about the studio. Man Ray vividly recalled the event in his autobiography, Self Portrait (London-New York: Andre Deutsch, 1963), p. 69.
[50] It is not known precisely to whom Duchamp refers. In the journals of Henri-Pierre Roche (Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin), the name "Alis[s]" appears frequently in connection with the Arensbergs and their circle, although a last name is not given.
[51] Beatrice Wood (1892-1998), a young actress-friend of Duchamp, Roché, and the Arensbergs, was at this time unhappily married to her first husband, whom she divorced in 1921, and it must be this predicament to which Duchamp refers (for Wood's recollections of this period, see "I Shock Myself: Excerpts from the Autobiography of Beatrice Wood," introduction and notes by Francis Naumann, Arts Magazine 51, no. 9 [May 1977]: 134-139).
[52] The "mirrored design" Duchamp refers to is known as the "Oculist Witness," a detail of the Large Glass located on the right portion of the Bachelor's Domain, or the lower half of the work. The form of the "Oculist Witness" was derived from the eye charts used by opticians, known in French as témoins oculistes. These shapes were rendered in perspective and by means of a carbon paper drawing (in the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Arensberg Collection) they were transferred to a portion of the Large Glass that had been treated with a silver adhesive. The excess silvering was then carefully scraped away, leaving the three oculist patterns.
In all likelihood, the "Yvonne" to whom Duchamp refers here is his youngest sister, though it could also be the widow of Raymond Duchamp-Villon, whose first name was Yvonne, or perhaps Yvonne Chastel, with whom Duchamp remained in touch into the 1940s (information derived from the papers of Yvonne Chastel, collection of Peter Lyon, Paris).
[53] Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was a music critic and novelist, who later turned to photography. In the late teens, with his wife Fania Marinoff he was a frequent visitor to the Arensberg apartment.
[54] Here Duchamp puns on the similar sounds of the French words "to show" [exposer] and "to marry" [épouser].
[55] Peter Juley (1862-1937) was a well known photographer specializing in the photography of art works, whose glass plate negatives are now in the possession of the National Museum of American Art. The "2 photographs of the head" to which Duchamp refers are probably the frontal and profile views of Crotti's Portrait of Marcel Duchamp (Sculpture made to measure), reproduced in Vanity Fair, June 1916, p. 87.
In the late teens Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) was known for his photographs of art works, and was employed for his services in this regard by several New York City dealers and collectors. On the Clown, see n. 33 above.
[56] According to these comments, Crotti apparently issued a sales catalogue of works of art, trying his hand at art dealing. On de Zayas, see n. 42 above.
[57] The telegram is preserved in the papers of Tristan Tzara, Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet, Universités de Paris, Paris. For a full description of this item, see Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Abrams, 1969), p. 587.
[58] See Jean Crotti, "Tabu," The Little Review, 8, no. 2, (Spring 1922) 44-45. and the essay by Jean-Hubert Martin, TABU DADA.
[59] Duchamp to Walter and Louise Arensberg, 15 November, 1921, The Francis Bacon Library, Claremont, California.
[60] Marcel Duchamp, "The Creative Act," Salt Seller:The Writings of Marcel Duchamp (Marchand Du Sel), eds. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 138-140.
[61] James Johnson Sweeney (1900-1986), noted art administrator, museum director, and historian. It is not known to specifically which exhibition organized by Sweeney Duchamp refers.
[62] DADA 1916-1923, an exhibition held at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, April 15-May 9, 1953; poster/catalog designed by Duchamp (see Sidney Janis, "A Recollection of the Dada Show," in Marcel Duchamp [New York and Philadelphia: The Museum of Modern Art and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973], p. 202).
[63] The Clown (see n. 33 above) was shown in this exhibition, along with two other works by Crotti and three by Suzanne Duchamp.
[64] Martha Pelletier. Nothing further is known about this person.
[65] Rose Fried (1896-1970) was sole proprietor and director of the Rose Fried Gallery, located at 40 East 68th Street in New York City. Earlier in the year—from February 25 through March, 1952-the gallery staged an exhibition titled "Duchamp frères et soeur." The papers and gallery records of Rose Fried are in the collection of the Archives of American Art.
[66] Michel Carrouges (1910-1988), author and historian closely associated with the Surrealist movement. In 1954 he published Les machines célibataires, "which found that the Large Glass and a mythical apparatus described by Franz Kafka in The Penal Colony can be 'perfectly and exactly superimposed'." This information is from the analysis provided by Alice Goldfarb Marquis in her Marcel Duchamp: Eros, c'est la vie, a Biography (Troy, N.Y.: Whitstom, 1981), p. 314. Also see "Carrouges," Dictionnaire général du Sirrréalisme et de ses environs (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1982), pp. 79-80; and Duchamp to Carrouges, 6 February 1960, reproduced, transcribed, and translated into English in Carrouges' Le Macchine Celibi | The Bachelor Machines (New York: Rizzoli, 1975), pp. 48-49.
[67] Duchamp's exact words were "... parfum original."


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