gallery 32     →
  • MILAN GOLOB; Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Max Rupert Angus (1914-2017), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Orsola Sartori (1920-1978), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Sofia Schnabl (1852-1944), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Milada Schaar (1920-2008), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Judith Scott (1943-2005), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Maya Deren (1917-1961), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Alexis Vidakis (1966-2013), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Nicolás García Uriburu (1937-2016), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×20 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Seraphina Albrecht (1753-1829), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916-2017), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Hélio Oiticia (1937-1980), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Cäcilia Lienhart (1911-1985), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Hein Van Der Rijst - Vengema (1934-1997), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Franz West (1947-2012), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×20 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Helene Witthoft (1834-1917), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Pietro Pompei (1820-1917), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Milan Vincetič (1957-2017), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Anna Gattermayr (1894-1918), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Gian Maria Gomiero (1990-2009), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Tina Modotti (1896-1942), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Piotr Kowalski (1927-2004), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Pauline Elizabeth Smith (1933-2017), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Hannelore Kleinhardt (1953-1997), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Mattia Miniussi (1978-2009), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Hans Schnappauf (1919-1941), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Samantha Elizabeth Edwards (1972-2002), 2017, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Lajos Batthyany (1807-1849), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Petar Skokandić - Srdar (1953-1994), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Enrico Paloma (2015-2015), title of painting not created yet
  • MILAN GOLOB; Amalia Kussian (1911-2000), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Ana Ožeg (1890-1916), 2017, oil on canvas, 21×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Antonio Deganis (1855-1899), 2017, oil on canvas, 20×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Arnold Bode (1900-1977), 2017, oil on canvas, 18×19 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Michael Zwack (1949-2017), 2017, oil on canvas, 23×18 cm
  • MILAN GOLOB; Bia Davou (1932-1996), 2017, oil on canvas, 24×19 cm
Katherine Sophie Dreier (1877-1952), title of painting not created yet

 



 

 

 

MARCEL DUCHAMP'S LETTERS TO MARIA MARTINS*
1946-1967/68

----- INTRODUCTION
----- In 1946, Marcel Duchamp entered into a lengthy correspondence with Maria Martins—a Surrealist sculptor and wife of the Brazilian ambassador to the United States—with whom he had been having an affair for the past three years. Thirty-five of Duchamp's letters have survived and are published here for the first time. Sadly, Martins's letters to the artist are presumed lost, and references to other letters by Duchamp in his own missives suggest that the collection is incomplete. The letters that do survive, however, contain fascinating insights into their relationship, as well as to the artist's contemporaneous work on the Étant donnés project. The vast majority of Duchamp's correspondence, written between 1946 and 1952, coincides with his construction of the female mannequin in the Fourteenth Street studio, with one final missive that can be dated to sometime between November 1967 and March 1968.
----- The letters also document the breakdown of the artist's relationship with Martins toward the end of the 1940s, which Duchamp stoically approaches as a sad yet almost inevitable event, due to their opposing temperaments and her preexisting family obligations as the married mother of three children. In contrast to the emotional indifference that he displayed to other women in his life, in these letters Duchamp occasionally shows a vulnerable side to his personality, especially when he and Martins are apart and he dearly pines for her. At the same time, Duchamp also conveys his impatience with her refusal to commit to the disciplined life of an artist rather than that of a popular, party-throwing socialite in Washington's diplomatic corps. The letters reveal the older artist to be an important mentor to Martins at a time when she aspired to be a modern sculptor associated with the international Surrealist movement. However, she ignored his pleas to reject her glamorous lifestyle and devote herself solely to her work and their relationship. Martin was not prepared to leave her husband, children, and friends, and embrace the closed, hermetic world that Duchamp imagined for the two of them. Following her husband's retirement from diplomatic life in 1950, Martins returned with him and their children to Brazil. The decision to move permanently to her homeland presented an insurmountable geographical obstacle to the continuation of her love affair with Duchamp, which effectively ended in the fall of 1951.
----- Given their unique status as documents of Duchamp's romance with Martins, as well as a record (albeit incomplete) of his construction of the Étant donnés mannequin, these letters have been with a minimum of editorial commentary. Individuals not discussed in the main essay are identified in the footnotes, which also supply details of works of art and exhibitions. In his letters, Duchamp generally wrote only the date, but not the year, and in some cases only the day of the week, but it has been possible to reconstruct the chronological sequence of the correspondence by reference to specific events within individual letters, thus allowing one to read them in the order in which they were written. The excitement that will be generated by the publication of these extraordinary documents, both among Duchamp scholars and the general public, can scarcely be imagined. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is therefore extremely grateful to Jacqueline Matisse Monnier, the artist's stepdaughter, for her permission to publish both the transcription of these letters in their original French and their English translation. We also would like to thank Paul Edwards for his sensitive and meticulous transcription and translation of Duchamp's handwritten letters.

—— Michael R. Taylor

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Thursday evening [c. 1946]

Despite everything you tell yourself, I actually like being alone here in the studio. This solitude is, in fact, just a way of re-entering my own individuality and it gives me an illusion of freedom inside 4 walls. But there is room enough for two if you want to be as one with my freedom, and a greater freedom still will come of it, as yours will protect and foster mine, and mine yours, I hope.
---- You have a susceptibility problem to sort out. I can assure you that if each time instead of being susceptible you apply a healing balm of absolute confidence the result will be so very soft and sweet that it will cure you gently of that susceptibility throwback, inherited perhaps from faraway ancestors.
---- You must know me well enough by now to realize that for the first time in my life I find myself accepting you completely as you are, without any feelings of rebellion of any kind, and that it has at last been granted to me to love you simply and purely, i.e., without the vaudeville farce that generally accompanies the trials and tribulations of two lovers.
---- I am impatient to hear the stories of the ocean. I try to imagine and construct what I can from your highly detailed letter on the beach, but the principal thing is the sound of your voice. It says far more than all the clarifications you can give. I could almost say that your voice has changed like that of a 14-year-old boy.
---- And the great, boundless joy that springs from it is, I am certain, the expression of faraway happiness new-born.
---- It is also essential that our individuality(ies) be always in harmony, and that we avoid the mundane exchanges of conjugal antagonism (not at all necessary).
---- I hope this brief letter reaches you on Saturday morning. I am sending it airmail tomorrow morning.

---- M


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Sunday, May 12 [1946]

Your radio telegrams all arrived while I was on board and since my arrival I have received 3 airmail letters and 3 cables.[1] You tell me this morning that you will phone on Wednesday 24, but I do not yet know whether it will be at Roché's[2] or at Mary's[Reynolds].
---- I am in a state of terrible depression——
---- General impression upon arrival: not as impossible as I had feared. There has been a great improvement over the last 2 months: there are buses, a few taxis and enough food. I am in my studio trying to repair the damage caused by the small fire, but have to wait for the landlord to be good enough to replace the panes of the glass roof through which the rain comes in.
---- My studio was lived in for 3 years by a succession of guys in the Resistance who felt safe here.
---- Phoned Mary Callery[3] yesterday. She is happy for you to phone me there. I will go and see her sometime soon. First I have to collect my heavier luggage from customs tomorrow, get my ration-books for food, tobacco, etc. Long process. Saw Roché. He has not yet been to the embassy nor the consulate but has received a letter inviting him to come to the embassy. He is going to fix everything for his departure in the very near future. He will not be leaving Paris for a month. You say May 25 is the date at which you might arrive here. I wait for confirmation with impatience and suppose that you will live at Mary's. I feel completely out of place, have not been able to make love, and feel more and more like ending it all. Fortunately your sweetness is there to comfort me when I am feeling very low.
---- In your last cable you say you arrive in N.Y. tomorrow, Monday 13, and are staying till Thursday. Will cable you in N.Y. tomorrow.
---- I have not yet detected the slightest echo, not even an imperceptible one, of our love, which seems not to have filtered out to an unwanted public.
Another letter soon I love you

---- M

 

 

[1] Duchamp sailed to France on the S.S. Brazil. which left New York on May 1, 1946.
[2] Henri-Pierre Roché (1879-1959) was one of Duchamp's closest friends. An artist, critic, and novelist, Roché also assisted Duchamp in financing his artistic ventures, including the manufacture of his Rotoreliefs and the production of his Boite-en-valise.
[3] Mary Callery (1903-1977) was an American sculptor and close friend of Duchamp and Mary Reynolds.


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New York, Friday [July 11, 1947]

Dear Maria,
I went to Kootz's[1] yesterday but the gallery is closed until September. I don't see whom I could see. If an idea comes to me, I will write you.[2]
---- The skin is in the press until tomorrow morning. When it is wet and taut it looks like fine quality marble but I fear that in drying it will yellow. I have had lots of ideas to make the job simpler.
---- Will you[3] be hopping over to New York one of these days?
---- It would be nice to see you.
---- No news about the Paris exhibition, nor about Steffi.[4] I think letters will arrive on Monday morning, and newspapers.
---- Kiesler should be back on July 17, unless he extends his stay.
---- What stories he will tell us!
---- Write a line if you do not come.

---- Very affectionately,
---- M. Duchamp

 

 

[1] Samuel M. Kootz (1898-1982) was an art dealer and writer whose New York gallery promoted the work of the Abstract Expressionists.
[2] Here, Duchamp uncharacteristically adopts the formal vous form of the second-person singular.
[3] The vous form here may simply be the plural.
[4] The artist here misspells the name of Stefi Kiesler (1896-1963), an abstract artist and the first wife of Frederick Kiesler.


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Saturday evening, July 17 [1948]

8 days exactly since you left N.Y. I received your cable and am waiting for your first letter.
---- I can quite easily imagine the chaos of ideas in your head when you arrived, with everyone telling you their own personal history and not worrying for a minute what state you might be in.
---- Here we are then, all set now for X number of days to have only woes to tell each other: not a friend in the whole world to actually stand up for us——for sure, I am the enemy of your friends. To relieve the situation, and not sink further in the mire, tell me all the funny little stories that will happen to you in gay Paree despite yourself, and give me the best of the gossip going round Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
---- Received a line from Walter Pach,[1] who spent two months at my brother's and wants to see me now that he has just come back to N.Y. Otherwise, seen nobody. A word from [Frederick] Kiesler asking me to come by and see them in the afternoon tomorrow, Sunday.
---- They are sure to provide me with gossip. Goodbye my little one, my love. Give me an address quickly where I can write you——like my address.
---- The temperature is less hot.
---- Write a line or two quickly love


---- M

 

 

[1] Walter Pach (1883-1958) was an American artist and critic who selected Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, as well as three other works by the artist, for inclusion in the New York Armory Show in 1913, and who helped him find a place to live in New York when he arrived in 1915.


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August 5 (Thursday) [1948]

A few days without any news from you. Have you continued being unwell despite what you said in your last letter (better)?
---- Everything has been settled with Lefebvre Foinet,[1] who left yesterday on the America with my instructions to send 120,000 francs to my sister-in-law.[2] He will do this on August 16 (because of the bank holiday weekend) and will receive the painting a few days later. At no point did I mention your name. I only told him that I would reimburse him immediately in francs or in dollars (he little cares which and told me that, should we convert the sum into dollars, he would give me the exchange rate on the day I pay him back; apparently it's something in the region of 320 dollars at the moment). Could you please tell me which currency you prefer, francs (if you can buy francs at a better rate) or else, if francs are expensive for you, the simplest thing would be for me to send a check to him in Los Angeles (where he lives) at the rate he gives me in a letter.
---- But as soon as I know he has the painting, I will cable him to telephone you at the Plaza Athénée [hotel] so that you can go and collect it.
---- If you wish to make other arrangements, go see him; they are waiting for you and will lend you their warehouse in the rue Dareau.
---- It is fortunate we have this litle business of the Coffee Mill to rekindle our spirits, for I can feel myself "dissolving," in the worst sense of the word.
Write.

---- Love

 

 

[1] René Lefèbvre-Foinet was a shipping agent in the Paris-based firm of Lucien Lefèbvre-Foinet, notable art-supplies store then owned by his brother, Maurice.
[2] Gaby Villon, née Gabrielle Bœuf (1879-1968), the wife of Duchamp's brother Jacques Villon, whom she married on October 22,1913.


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August 10 [1948]
No word from you in more than 10 days; I would like to think that you have written but that you put too much weight in the envelope, with the result that the French postal services sent your letter surface mail instead of airmail.
---- Tell me quickly that you are not ill, and what you are doing. Just a quick note but immediately on reception of this letter.
---- I will wait till August 17 or 18 before cabling Lefebvre Foinet, and in the meantime I await your "instructions."
---- Would you rather I pay in dollars here or are your francs cheaper?
---- The heatwave is over and the weather is delightful, even in N.Y. itself.
---- I will write to you at greater length when you have reassured me. Perhaps my letters do not reach you?
---- I write very frequently.

---- Love


————————————————————————————————————————


August 17 [1948]

The day after I wrote you a desperate letter, not having had any news from you for 12 days, I received your letter from Saint-Tropez in which the reasons for your silence are explained. Departure, trip to Italy, etc. Received your card from Florence this morning.
---- No, nothing will change our love——M. R. [Mary Reynolds] arrived a few days ago. She is living in the Chelsea Hotel, in Virgil Thomson's suite. Nothing has happened nor will happen. She leaves for Chicago on the 21st, will be back in N.Y. in Sept. and will take the boat back in the first days of October.
---- As for myself, I will be absent from N.Y. for 10 days, from the 2nd to the 12th of September, while at a chess tournament at Endicott, N.Y.
---- I'm so happy that Diaz[1] has given you a studio——and I'm writing you there for the first time.
---- I sent a cable to Lefebvre in Paris this evening, asking him to inform me as soon as he has the painting in his possession. I hope for a reply in 4 or 5 days, around the 22nd or 23rd, at which point I will write him that you will pick it up around Sept. 28 or 29. Will let you know.
---- You still have not told me whether you would rather pay in francs or have me pay him in dollar here.
---- Life is empty, the city is empty——must draw up a list of people to avoid (With Mrs [Sonia] Delaunay at the top of the list).
---- Goodbye, love——you will find this when you return to Paris.

---- Love

 

 

[1] Duchamp is here referring to Cicero Dias (1907-2003), a painter from Pernambuco, Brazil, who was at that time working as a cultural attaché at the Brazilian embassy in Paris.


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Endicott, Sept. 6 [1948]

Tournament over. I played very well——missed making it to the finals by only 1/2 a point. Delighted with myself Returning to NY. tomorrow, at which point it will be too late to write to you, I think; but I hope too that there will be a note from you with your plans.
---- These 8 days in the country have done me a wealth of good. I had a lot of free time between games and I thought about us a good deal. How simple life is when there is only the inner self to think about. So I took a trip inside your inner self, and I found what I had thought would be there, having guessed by external contact only——I found "things" that have no name even in the most poetical language. We must live by these "things" and by these "things" alone. The rest, mere physical survival, must be reduced to the minimum.
---- I am returning tomorrow and will go back to my dry skin under its steel rods——only you can understand this sentence.
---- I have even started to draw the woman. (In pencil.)
---- Winter promises to be good.
---- Naturally, I read in the papers that you had a safe and pleasant journey.
---- I'm impatient to be back in N.Y. so I can read your letter or telegram.

---- Love

---- M


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Oct. 12 [1948]

I will phone the consul tomorrow and arrange an appointment probably for Friday——thank you for your letter. Will write you the result as soon as I know. Autumn is quite beautiful here but all the same has a funereal air, like all beautiful autumns——something like a funereal relaxation of things.
---- Tomorrow and the following days I will be putting my skin under the nails and will make a test, which will be more or less definitive, before starting on the full-scale plastilene.
---- My mind is at rest, at last, on the subject of your exhibition.[1] You have given me plenty of details and it is clear that the show will be more complete than at Julien's [the Julien Levy Gallery]. Tapié[2] seems very well. I am waiting for his text. You did not tell me whether André [Breton] is angry with Claire [Donati] or not and why. She says she does not know, unless she simply does not want to talk about it. On the other hand, I think André is subject to some light form of madness; for instance, failing to see Kiesler on the latter's arrival in Paris——when you think that K. had come to help him, almost at André's bidding! Let us not try to understand other people, for we will only be disappointed——there is nothing to understand, just the next breath to catch, and if it is taken away from us it is best not to know that it has been taken away from us. How I would like to breathe with you——

---- Love

Lunched with [Alfred] Barr some time ago; he wants to know how you are.

 

 

[1] Maria Martins's solo exhibition at the Galerie René Drouin, Puis, took place from October to November 1948.
[2] Michel Tapié (1909-1987) was a French art critic, curator, and collector who wrote an essay on Maria Martins entitled "Magie Maria message" (Magic Maria Message) in the first book dedicated exclusively to her sculpture, entitled Les Statues magiques de Maria (Paris: Roné Drouin, 1948). This publication, which was co-authored by André Breton and Tapié, was designed to coincide with the artist's first solo show in Paris at the Galerie René Drouin in November and December 1948.


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Goodnight, my little one.
I will dream of you.
Love

THE ST. FRANCIS
UNION SQUARE
SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco
Wednesday evening [April 6, 1949]

Arrived fine this evening. It is midnight here but 3 in the morning in N.Y. and in my little head still ringing from the plane.
---- I will write you at greater length tomorrow——you write me:

---- General Delivery
---- Hollywood Calif——

---- I will be at that address on the 12th and for at least 8 or 10 days.


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THE ST. FRANCIS
UNION SQUARE
SAN FRANCISCO

April 7 [1949]

The round table has been turning for 2 days, as I said in my cable yesterday. And this change of air has put my ideas about us in cold light: I realize just how much both of us are imprisoned by a gang of so-called "friends" who are not out to do us any wrong as such but who simply want to keep us in a cage.
---- And so I spend a lot of time thinking of a way to escape from the cage. Nor must we let ourselves be trapped by our "environment."
---- Any environment that is accepted becomes a clasp that cannot be wrenched off without pain.
---- Besides which, as we have always said, the way out is your sculpture and my woman with the open pussy.
---- But the main thing is to repeat it like a litany, or more like a prayer, every morning and every evening. Before leaving I had very nearly finished my woman's hand.
---- When I left her, she did not look too "wooden."
---- I am leaving San Francisco on Tuesday, April 12, and will spend about 10 days in Hollywood with [Walter] Arensberg and Man Ray. I hope I will receive some news from you because the last letter I received in N.Y. was the one in which you told me of the hunt and the horrors of the quarry for we too are the stag.
---- Will keep you abreast of my movements I intend to stop over only at Max Ernst's at Sedona (Arizona) on the way back to N.Y.
---- Write soon, my love. You are here with me.

---- M


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Hollywood, April 22 [1949]

At least I am spending a few pleasant days with the A [Arensbergs], a few spring days such as there are none in N.Y. I will write you from N.Y. to give you the outcome of the negotiations, which do not look promising.
---- You will receive this letter while rushing about preparing your exhibition——and I hope you have managed to finish everything despite that blessed hand of yours.
---- I often think about your hand, which I have never hurt, and which has given me more joy than any lover could wish for.
---- I am impatient to know when you think you can come. Perhaps you could live in your flat. Would you like me to collect the 2½ months' rent B.[1] owes you? It would feel so good to get back into our old habits. Every detail of the apartment would remind us of a happy event in the past.

---- Love

I am coming back to N.Y. on Tuesday, April 24.

 

 

[1] From information supplied in a subsequent letter, this person can be identified as César Berenger, an employee of the Brazilian Consulate at Rockefeller Plaza in New York.


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May 6, [19]49

Your love totem sketch has arrived fine. Far a title, I propose:
---- ---- LOVE FOR HOW MANY SO MUCH THE BETTER.
Found that without any intention of making objective sense; but the combination of adverbs produces subtle meanings, I think. If you do not like it, I will search for other titles. It does not seem possible to me to say: Love totem. It sounds more like a subtitle than a Title. As regards Skira,[1] OK, but ask him to have it photographed at your home, I always worry that little things like that might get "lost."- And ask him for twenty prints or so, for you and for me. Did you take it out of its frame to see if there was anything written behind it?
---- Another question——the same question——Schweitzer.[2] Please give a reply, even if only a yes or a no.
---- (In case you can't remember, it is about sending a refrigerator to his mother.)
---- Max Ernst' house in Arizona is situated in an extraordinary Iandscape: a little like the Grand Canyon, minus the idea of there being a hole. You should see all the reds on this ″found architecture,″ with bas-reliefs washed by the waters of a million years ago.
---- [Jacques] Villons at Louis Carré[3] meeting with great success over here.
---- Saw Barr and Soby[4] at the Museum of Mod. Art. The improvement in .A.M.'s[5] condition is not enough to be happy about——but do you have a doctor who talks about other things than just medication and who is capable of seeing beyond his instruments and laboratory results——we have here a case, I believe, where psychological methods could have an influence upon the healing process. Do not be too alarmed, my little one, for you owe it to yourself to be happy in your life——I would so like to tell me that your work fills you with joy every day, even when you are not satisfied with it: it is imperative to chase away all outside interference and act from the inside to the outside——I am within you and you only have to knead me to make us happy.

---- Write soon

---- Love

---- The hand has been cast.

 

 

[1] Albert Skira (1904 1973) was a French publisher of art books and magazines, including the Surrealist Minotaure.
[2] Pierre Schweitzer (dates unknown) was a representative of the Galerie Maeght in New York who had earlier helped Duchamp with the organization of the 1947 Surrealist exhibition in Paris.
[3] The Louis Carré Gallery at 712 Fifth Avenue, New York, presented an exhibition of paintings by Jacques Villon from April 26 to May 14, 1949.
[4] James Thrall Soby (1906-1979) was an American curator, writer, and collector. In November 1940, he was appointed to the Museum of Modem Art's acquisitions and photography committees, and would play a prominent role as a curator and trustee of the museum for the next four decades. He served as director of the department of painting and sculpture from October 27, 1943, through January 1, 1945, and as chairman of that department on an interim basis during 1947 and 1957. Soby is perhaps best known today as a scholar and collector of the work of Giorgio de Chirico.
[5] Anna Maria Martins (1930-2005) was Maria's daughter. She later lived in Philadelphia, where she worked as a movement therapist.


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May 24 [1949]

Your letter of the 16th has arrived, bearing the good news that there have been crowds of people at your exhibition, and that you have sold and will continue to sell.
---- I have been waiting so long for a letter from you bearing such news, news from the real you, who worked, who, in spite of all the obstacles, produced enough for a successful exhibition.
---- The only cloud on the horizon is that blessed hand of yours. I am beginning to think that it must be cursed by some kind of black magic, even though it is only supposed to be occupational neuritis. I had this idea that you might practice sculpting with your left hand, because even if you employ both hands, you still mostly employ your right hand.
---- Dinner this evening at the Donatis'. Enrico has just come back from Milan via Paris where he saw André [Breton], who was in rather a bad mood because Donati and I had been so bold as to offer him a miserly remuneration for some articles in response to a weepy letter he sent Donati some 3 or 4 months ago——I mentioned it to you at the time. André can be really very vulgar at times and his Hitlerite attitude is often synonymous with imbecility.
---- If you are coming on June 15, cable Berenger to vacate the apartment before——at least he will be able to tell himself he can knock a fortnight's rent off his calculations——or I can tell him myself if you tell me to.
---- I have started to dream about number 471,[1] as that is where we had our best times, and to relive them will be joy redoubled.
---- Come soon, my little one, and stay for a long time; let us endeavor to claim a little of what is our due.
---- Do not write but cable me instead to let me know until when I can write to Peti[illegible].

---- Love

 

 

[1] This number refers to 471 Park Avenue at 58th Street in New York, a three-bedroom duplex apartment that Martins began renting in the winter of 1941-42, and used as a studio until she moved to Paris in 1948, after her husband, Carlos Martins, was posted there as the Brazilian ambassador.


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May 31 [1949]

You must have received my letter the following day as I do not feel as if I have abandoned you. In my letter, I gave you all the details about mailing the packing-cases, Schweitzer, and an exhibition in N.Y. Do you like the title: "the tree of love"? I saw that title yesterday, as it happens, on an Épinal print.
---- Tell me quickly if you want me to speak to Kurt [Valentin] and Sidney Janis[1] about a possible exhibition in N.Y.
---- Here: nothing to report. Had dinner at the Sweeneys'.[2] They are leaving for Europe in a fortnight. They haven't changed.
---- But our woman is finished and goes to the molder's the day after tomorrow. I intend to work on the plaster cast a great deal because I can't see anything more to do with the plastilene.
---- I am neither satisfied nor dissatisfied: I can't add or remove anything; it is what it is.
---- Also saw Donati, who is expecting Claire [Donati] to arrive any day now. She too is off to Paris, with the children, in a fortnight.
---- I have probably already told you that the Chicago Museum[3] is mounting an exhibition of the Arensberg collection in the Fall. They have invited me to Chicago for Oct. 19 (private viewing)——the Arensbergs will be corning. Luxury catalogue and all the fanfare. You have to come too so——let's get this N.Y. exhibition fixed up as quickly as possible.
---- In the meantime I am much more taken with the woman in her skin and hope to see her in her skin round about September 1st (painted or not).
---- I do not want to bother you any more with my tirades against the life that you are obliged to lead. I only hope that you reduce any vexations to the minimum by not thinking about them. You did not mention A.M. It is much more important. What is the situation now? At heart, my little one, I am profoundly sad, for I can see all our days passing rapidly and fading away one by one without any of our dreams coming true. Is it because we lack courage? Why should we give in when nothing is really an obstacle? I love you but I would like to love you better.

---- Love

 

 

[1] Sidney Janis (1897-1989) was a prominent collector and owner of a New York gallery bearing his name.
[2] James Johnson Sweeney (1900-1986) replaced AIfred H. Barr, Jr., in 1945 as director of the painting and sculpture department at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
[3] The exhibition, entitled 20th Century Art from the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, opened at the Art Institute of Chicogo on October 19, 1949.


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June 6 [1949]

The day of the mold has come——I am taking our woman to the Italian [Ettore Salvatore] and I hope to have my plaster cast at the end of this week.
---- I hope to be able to add improvements to the plaster cast because the plastilene gives a false impression. This woman is much more lascivious than the smaller version.
---- Could you please tell me quickly whether I can talk to Kurt Valentin[1] as he is off to Paris in 10 days' time. And to Sidney Janis, who is leaving on around the 11th, I think.
---- Then you could see them in Paris and that would make the transaction easier. Especially Kurt Valentin, because if he accepts on principle you could speak to him more freely. But give me an answer quickly.
---- I am looking forward to the photos of your wax models and castings——the 2 totems
---- Received the minutes of my San Francisco lecture and most of my answers to questions are incomprehensible. I am now forced to rewrite them if they are to appear in the printed edition to be published in October.
---- I have heard it said that there will be 250,000 tourists in Paris this summer, so I can well imagine the number of boring assholes you will have to "entertain" and it pains me to think that you are in a worse prison in Paris than you were in N.Y.——at least you had more time you could call your own. Not to mention the pernicious acidity of the "artistic" circles, which for me are a nightmare. Are you beginning to realize it now that you have been in Paris for almost a year?
---- We are still a long way off from the secular convent we had dreamed for ourselves. I believe more and more in an absolute retreat from the world——5 friends at most. For the rest: silence, total and complete, stubborn silence.
---- I still harbor a grudge against Barr for talking to his wife about our "skin." I saw him the other day with Kinsey (you know, the Kinsey Report). Kinsey is conducting a statistical enquiry into eroticism among artists and in works of art. I am determined not to submit myself to his interrogation (which looks like a psychoanalytical enquiry).
---- Write more. Even if only a line or two, but write frequently. Thinking about your being stuck in the mire fills me with despair and I know not what to say or do.

---- Love

 

 

[1] Curt Valentin (1902-1954) was a German art dealer who worked for the Buchholz Gallery in Hamburg. In 1937, he immigrated to the United States and opened a gallery under the Buchholz name in New York, specializing in modern sculpture. In 1951, the gallery was renamed the Curt Valentin Gallery.


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June 20 [1949]

I have received your letter announcing your departure for London and I hope that you will receive this upon your return.
---- I telephoned the Consul who pointed out to me that the rent is due on
July 15 and not June 15; I therefore had to beat a retreat. In any case, he
owes you February, March, April, May and June, S times 50 = S 250, plus
the quarter that falls in July, which will be 400 + (3 months at 50 each) July,
August and Sept. + 25 up to Oct. 15 = 175 = 575
---- 575
---- 250
---- 825 which I will receive on July 15 and deposit..
---- Tell me if that's all right.
---- Kurt, as I said in my last letter, is leaving for Paris today you must arrange to see him. His answer (fully booked) is what they always say. And see Janis too; he is in Paris.
---- My plaster cast is back home and I am working on the sterile surface of the intractable plaster, with the inevitable little mishaps. What is ugly about plaster is the impression it gives of having been molded; that very thin top layer has to be removed by reworking the contours and then you have another original.
---- Anyhow, we'll see.
---- Are you happy with the tides I sent you?
---- At last N.Y. is more or less empty and I can even work with the door open, seeing how hot it is.
---- I also think about the studio next to mine that would really be the beginning of our monastery. You could isolate your elf here with me and nobody would be aware that this cage away from the world even existed. The light is verygood (south facing), heating very good, too hot in summer.
---- It is but a small step toward a solution, but what is the solution?
---- I will be spending Saturday, Sun. and Monday in Boston with my "family" and while I am there will see the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art[1] who should be mounting a Villon exhibition in January, I think. If I could get him to exhibit you I will try. Write, and think of yourself as I think of you, for it is our only means of protecting ourselves.

---- Love

 

 

[1] In 1950, the lmstitute of Contemporary Art in Boston presented a joint exhibition of Jacques Villon and Lyonel Feininger.


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June 30 [1949]

I have received the letter you sent on your return from London (but after 7 days). Very happy to know that you are working away. And I like the title Fatalité femme[1]——and I am impatient to see the photos. In the letter that you must have received on your return from London, I asked you whether you agreed to take the studio next to mine (not the one on 14th Street but the other one). You do not mention it. Write me a line about it in your next letter. Though I am not at all sure of being able to secure it.
---- In my following letter, I wrote you about Bérenger and the $825, which I will collect on July 15. Is that the correct sum? And ought I to go there on July 15? Could you please write him a line.
---- Arp, you know, has changed character completely since the death of his wife, and instead of bowing gracefully to the menopause that hits pseudo great men, he has started to adopt the mindless imbecility of all those puppets and will not face the facts.
---- As for Castelli, I leave it to you to treat him as he deserves.
---- I very much hope that Kurt will be touched by the "grace" of your pieces and that he will accord you an exhibition.
---- As for Boston, nothing doing: It is a small museum with no means——really not interesting at all.
---- Don't be embarrassed about Zervos,[2] my little one. My personal opinion concerning him does not in any way change the significance of his good deed. But do not thank him too much he only does it because he needs to. It is not out of kindness of heart.
---- I am back to working 8 hrs a day, retouching the plaster cast, i.e., redoing it completely. I find that the surface produced by the plastilene gives me more or less what I am looking for, namely, the epidermis and not the sculpture of the bones or the volumes. In any case this plaster cast was only made with a view to the skin that will go on it and that changes the whole conception.
---- I have high hopes for the end of July. For how long are you staying in Rio? Tell me as soon as you know.
---- Love, I think of you all the time. But I suffer on account of the 14 hours a day that are not yours.

 

 

[1] Duchamp is referring here to a 1948 bronze sculpture by Martins entitled Fatalité-Femme.
[2] Christian Zervos (1899-1970) was. French art critic and publisher who founded the magazine Cabiers d’art (1926-1960) in Paris, where he also ran an art gallery. A specialist in the work of PabIo Picasso, he is perhaps best known today as the author of the artist's caalogue raisonné.


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Sept. 23 [1949]

---- Just received a letter from you dated the 14th and delivered a little late. I phoned Berkeley. They told me that Saunders[1] sent or will send the sculpture in the next few days on the SS Molda. I forget the name of the company, and the port of arrival (probably Le Havre). If you do not know Saunders's Paris correspondent, I could telephone him and send you his address.
---- As for the consul, I await your final instructions, and tell me above all if I can give him a receipt in my name without mentioning yours (which will be difficult!). Fix these details clearly, either by writing him that I will not be giving him a receipt, or some other formula. I am working on your painting, and am happy to hear that the 8th veil[2] is finished. Send photo.
---- I do all that I can with the power of thought to sweeten your life over there as it is a nightmare for me.
---- Soon we will be talking about your departure how good it will be.
---- Kisses everywhere at the same time.

---- Love

 

 

[1] This person has not been identified but may have been a shipping agent based in Berkeley, California, with an office in Paris.
[2] Eighth Veil is the title of a sculpture of a nude female figure that Martins created in plaster in 1948 and cast in bronze in 1949.


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Oct. 6 [1949]

I cabled yesterday to buck you up a little, having had the impression that you needed it. As you say, what is lacking now, at least in France, is that celebrated sense of humor that has been quite simply trampled upon and cast to the wayside for several years to come by political fanaticism. And the Surrealists are a sad lot, they who stand up in defense of humor, with "theory."
---- I am counting the days now: Will you be coming by plane? Around what date? Perhaps you do not know yet. End of November?
---- I cabled you about the Consul. If you have not already done so by the time this letter arrives, could you be so kind as to tell me in 3 lines what I should do; ak fpr $1200 in notes without giving him a receipt? His address:
---- Cesar Berenger Rockfeller Plaza Oct. 15
---- at about 11:30 a.m.
---- Do please confirm all these points so as to avoid any problems afterward.
---- Oct. 7, morning. Just received your registered letter with the letter for Cesar I will do exactly as you say. Thanks also for the check for 539. It was only 535.00, but have you any news of the shipping of the sculpture?
---- Dined yesterday evening at the Donatis'. With Claire I had the impression I was actually in physical contact with you as she had kept about her something of you, and it was good. They do not appear to be particularly bothered about André's attitude.
---- Tell me how things stand between you: perhaps it will be difficult to print his preface if he does not agree.
---- I like the 8th Veil a great deal, and its head, though I can't see it clearly even with a magnifying glass. If you have any other photos, send.
---- Goodbye, my dear, my little one, and see you soon now. Love


————————————————————————————————————————


Nov. 8 [1949]

Just to quickly let you know that I received your letter yesterday and your cable this morning announcing your firm departure on the 16th and arrival in N.Y. aboard the Queen Elizabeth on the 21st.
---- I have delivered your message to the Donatis, who are leaving for Rio this very evening.
---- I will ask the Cunard Line far a pass and will probably meet up with you at the baggage claim under "M" your letter. I will even try to board ship.
---- As regards the hotel, the simplest solution would be for you to go directly to the Saint Regis upon arrival and then keep it as a permanent address; the following day I could book a room in my name at another hotel where you could stay. But we will arrange all that when we meet.
---- The idea that you will be here at last in a few days makes me feel all peculiar.
---- Cable me from the ship as soon as it leaves, just 2 words, "En Route" no signature.
---- And above all come quickly, love


————————————————————————————————————————


Tuesday evening [November/December 1949]

Here we are, completely isolated. For one reason or another I feel that this strike is a personal attack on us more than on the rest of the U.S. This sudden lack of physical contact throws me almost into a panic and it is the bad times again——disgusted with everything.
---- For a start, my experiments with the skin are turning out to be very disappointing. The cast is fine but the skin won't follow the shape of the cast. In short, I am waiting for you to speak to you more about it.
---- I called on Budworth[1] this afternoon and I saw the crate they have made for the shadow.[2] Very beautiful, very well made. OK. I took down again the address of the Long Island hauler so I can telephone him and tell him to pick up the impossible[3] at Spring's[4] and take it to Bud.'s. But would you be good enough to send a line to Spring to tell him to let the hauler have the impossible when he turns up (perhaps on Friday, or sometime from Friday on). Can you also send me 2 photos of the impossible for customs as soon as you can.
---- It is now likely that the bulk of the exhibition will be put on ship at the end of the month.
---- Come soon——I am 10 a state of desolation that calls for your aid.
---- Above all. write soon and tell me anything. At least your handwriting will do me good.
---- Goodbye, my love, I am waiting for you.

---- Rrose

 

 

[1] W. S. Budworth and Son, Inc., was a New York-based shipping company located at 424 West Fifty-second Street.
[2] Duchamp is probably refering here to the 1946 sculpture by Martins entitled The Road; the Shadow; Too Long, Too Narrow.
[3] Impossible is the title of a large sculpture by Martins for which there are several versions in plaster and bronze dating between 1944 and 1949, and which was to become her best-known and most often reproduced work.
[4] John Spring (1902- 1975) founded the Modern Art Foundry in 1932 in Long Island City. NY, where Martins began casting her bronze sculpture in 1942.


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March 19 [1950]

I feel totally lost now that we are completely cut off from each other; I send these letters out in the hope that they will reach you and bring you comfort. Please write me a line or 2 with your left hand to tell me when you will be able to write with your right hand——I would like to know more or less when. This isolation hurts.
---- This morning I received a telegram from Berenger asking me to telephone him, and on the phone he asked me to lunch with him on Wednesday (March 22)——I have no idea what he wants. Is it about the apartment?? (As I said in a previous letter,[1] I deposited 150 [dollars] on your account.)
---- As for the white orchid, I am preparing my third coat, which will be slightly pink! A skin color that will be as natural as possible.
---- But with each new coat, I have regrets and alter certain details because I would like to keep for you this unique example of direct sculpture; for, as the photo already shows, it no longer has anything to do with the plastilene model I had cast less than six months ago.
---- With the skin I can look forward to many happy days with difficult problems on my hands.
---- I wonder now, what with your hand, whether you will be able to make it all the way over here in May. You see all the things that can go through my head when I have nothing to help me get my bearings.
---- Saw Dalì the other day at the Sweeneys'. Hasn't changed, just a little calmer than before. Did I tell you that Sweeney has started taking notes again for his book about me? In five years we will perhaps see something in the shape of a book.
---- I can't even say "write" anymore. This situation is driving me to despair.
---- Can you at least go to the Post Office to collect these letters?

---- Love

 

 

[1] This ″previous letter″· does not appear to have survived.


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April 3 [1950]

2 letter from you have arrived almost at the same time——and what sad letters they are! Total despair——which I share since we are in such a terrible dilemma; especially as this dilemma concerns 2 people who owe nothing to anybody and who do not wish to hear about anybody. l am impatient for you to be here to talk about the situation in more detail.
---- Your plan for a catalogue seems to me to be perfect. Be sure to print enough for the 2 exhibitions.
---- The lines for Richter[1] you mention were written after lunch at his home over the walnuts and wine. I never imagined the publicity of that gallery in Paris would be widespread——you can't trust anybody.
---- I have been invited to a Diamond Jubilee at the Philadelphia Museum [of Art] in January 1951. As I was expected to make a little speech of 20 minutes, I refused. If I start behaving like a puppet on a string then what will become of our liberty?
---- Saw the Mary Callery exhibition. I think it is the same show as the one you saw in Paris.
---- Even after Marini,[2] which leaves me completely cold, she does not amuse me very much. I saw her once and I can sense that she senses that I don't quite approve.
---- I await your reply to my last letter about how the plans for your exhibition over here are coming along.
---- If we open on May 20 here, your pieces must leave Sao Paulo at least three weeks before and you should think about booking a boat that will arrive here 5 days before the 20th. Bye-bye my little one, see you soon, perhaps it will spell release.

---- Love

Our Lady of Desire is now flesh-pink: I am struggling against an overly fondant candy color.

 

 

[1] Hans Richter (1888-1976) was a German-born Dada painter and filmmaker. In 1947, Duchamp appeared in his film Dreams that Money Can Buy.
[2] Marino Marini (1901-1980) was an Italian sculptor famous for his equestrian statues.


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Sept. 5 [1950]

I came back to N.Y. last night and was oppressed with a feeling of great emptiness, having become used to seeing you here.
---- I have received the letter you sent to Binghamton [New York] and in it you give me a pretty good idea of the situation——the eternal problem of the French. The family situation gives me an idea of how infuriated you must be and I am so completely in agreement with you that I can find nothing soothing to calm you down and make you feel less angry and frustrated.
---- The elegance of our state servant and officious apostle is enough to die laughing. It is all that we have, fortunately: to laugh a little and to laugh a lot.
---- I found Our Lady of Desire here, the hussy, and she has not changed a bit. I am still dressing her in her finery of nails and she waits patiently for her clothing of skin.
---- And what have you decided?! I think that this letter will have to be the last I send to Paris, so tell me when you will be in Rio and I will write to the Caixa [bank] immediately.
---- My little one, let us devote the most possible time to ourselves alone. Give the rest of the world only what is strictly necessary. Nothing is worth the trouble of sweating blood for others, even those who, with the best motives in the world, will always grudge you "good advice."
---- See you soon, for I can't imagine that we will continue to be separated for so very long.

---- Love


————————————————————————————————————————


Nov. 19 [1950]

GRAND HOTEL
TERMINUS SAINT LAZARE
108, RUE SAINT LAZARE
PARIS

Your registered letter of the 8th only arrived on the 15th just as I was moving into the Hotel Terminus.
---- And what a sad letter! How could our little one[1] have gone down so quickly, without any warning signs?
---- How I regret that our situation does not allow me to see her.
---- I can guess what state her mother and father must be in. It was fortunate they were able to come quickly. If there is anything to be done to prevent the worst and ensure a return to a healthy state, they, at least, will do it with some chance of success.
---- I therefore await further details from you and if I can do anything, tell me and cable me.
---- I am at the Terminus Saint Lazare until Saturday morning Nov. 25. My Mauritania leaves Le Havre at about 2 p.m.
---- Unfortunately, there is only enough time left for you to cable me at the hotel (Terminus Saint Lazare) or on board the Mauritania.
---- And nothing of any of that will help us find our heaven.
---- As everything seems to be more and more tangled, and I am almost suffering physically from my stay here, despite the very great kindness shown me by my family and a few friends.
---- That does not sound right at all. In general.

---- Love

---- M

P.S. You must tell me how to cable you if it becomes necessary!

 

 

[1] This person. presumably a young girl, has not been identified, but the reference to "her mother and father" suggests that this was not one of Martins’s children; see Duchamp's letter of May 6, 1949.


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Feb. 12 [1951]

Nothing from you in fifteen days——I curse the postal service, but tell myself too that you've perhaps been unable to extricate yourself from the complications piling up around you.
---- You are condemned and damned to suffer unnecessarily, and that is the tragedy of your situation.
---- The net you are family circle caught in is now made of such thick rope that not even a razor blade could cut you free.
---- I suffer, my little one, more than you, because I could save myself if I were in your position but can do nothing except talk to you through the holes of the net.
---- I am seized by blind rage every time I think not only of us but just of you as a living being created for a higher destiny, such as you feel it deeply yourself, and whose fulfillment is refused you, as when drowning in a dream and unable to reach the branch that is near.
---- This letter is truly written in desperation.
---- Write me a little; perhaps we will find something by dint of searching.
---- Here: nothing. A delicious nothing with my little electroplated plaster casts.
---- It all progresses slowly but I've resigned myself to slowness, as it has become physiological with me. Where are our happy days and happy nights?

---- Love


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May 13 [1951?)

Your voice on the telephone was very distorted, very deep, and I was left in a state of great distress afterward. The physical contact of a voice is so strong, so much a presence, that it makes you realize the futility of the written word. My distress is an echo of yours, having felt it so keenly, and I really do not know anymore what I can do to put both of us on our feet again.
---- To spend our time deploring this state of affairs is not a solution. On the contrary, we would be very much like those people who have been at war for the last five years because they have feared war for the last five years. The truth is we both need——physical love and these long interruptions of chastity only serve to sharpen a new razor blade.
---- There is no ersatz love. It does not exist. And by not making love we feel disgust and there is no way out. Even work is a sexual stimulant, instead of turning our attention away from the physiological.
---- Give me a few details about your foot injury and tell me how serious it is, and when you will be completely healed.
---- I continue to work away, though my enthusiasm has dwindled somewhat; yet I know from past experience that this indifference is not a bad sign in itself when I am engaged in something: It is a guarantee against good taste and even against bad taste.
---- Kiss my flower for me.

---- Love


————————————————————————————————————————


August 16 (1951)

Your letter of August 7 has arrived.
---- Happy feast day, sad feast day——it would be happy if we were together, but as we are far apart these dates do nothing but accentuate the distance between us and are more painful than pleasant.
---- At last you are sending to the foundry——quick, a photo.
---- I saw Glamer[1] yesterday. He's an abstract Swiss-American who has been invited to Sāo Paulo. He tells me that about 37 or 38 American artists have been invited by a committee (Richie[2] at the Museum of Mod. Art, etc.).
---- Everybody is surprised at the huge sums offered as prize money. Can there really be a prize of 50,000 American dollars, and 3 of them (sculpture, painting, engraving)——just between us, I think it is absurd.
---- I hope the sums are at least divided up into several prizes.
---- Don't forget that I leave on August 24 for 12 days. Will be back on Sept. 5. Write me at:

---- M.D.
---- Chess Tournament
---- Syracuse University
---- Syracuse N.Y.

---- Passedoit[3] (the gallery, remember) asked me for your address about something or other that I did not quite catch. I gave him your sister's address (37 Eduardo). It is unlikely to be anything of interest to you.
---- No news of Mary Callery since last year. I do not know where she is, Long Island or France. Basically there never was any great sympathy between her and me. She detests me as an artist, and as an individual I can be of no use to her.
---- Sidney Janis is back from France and I am going to see him very shortly to hear the lines of argument behind his "calendar" for next year. Tell me if you have some project or other for New York (exhibition at his gallery) and what time of the year you would prefer.
---- All that would be easy to arrange if you were here to live a little as you and I desire.

---- Love

 

 

[1] Frirz Glarner (1899-1972) was a Swiss-born American abstract painter.
[2] Andrew C. Ritchie (1907-1978) was the director of the painting and sculpture department at the Museum of Modem Art in New York from 1949 to 1957, before becoming director of the Yale University Art Gallery. During his fourteen-year tenure there, Ritchie was instrumental in founding the Yale Cent
er for British Art.
[3] Duchamp is probably referring here to Albert Landry, who worked for the Passedoit Gallery in New York, founded by Georgette Passedoit.


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Oct. 8 [1951)

Your registered letter of the 2nd arrived this morning. Thanks also for your cables on your arrival.
---- Obviously, if the catalogue is printed, it is no longer as worthwhile to lend your paintings and sculptures now with D. and M.C. [Donati and Mary Callery).
---- I went off to spend 24 hours at the Tanguys'. I slept in our house but it was cold and I slept very badly. They haven't changed. Kay [Sage] won a S2,000 prize (!) in an exhibition reserved exclusively for Connecticut artists. I have no idea which critics have been sent to the [Sāo Paulo] Biennale from the U.S.A. (Perhaps Sweeney? whom I have not yet seen, if he is back (?).)
---- Tomorrow you are off to Sāo Paulo to prepare your room. That at least is fun and you will be far removed from family hassle. Take photos and send them to me.
---- So happy that you are satisfied with the bronze, done in your absence——except for the chiseling (your hand will hurt again).
---- Thanks for the gossip from Paris, that charming provincial town; but Tanguy tells me the cause of Peggine's[1] pseudosuicide was that she wanted to sleep with an Italian boy and her mother went and told him!! This said without any guarantee of truth!
---- As I said before, I am putting the skin on the severed leg while waiting for the rest of madame to dry out. The leg will be finished this week and immediately afterward I will start on the paraffin mold, having decided that the wax you suggested is much less firm than paraffin.
---- Like yourself I have sunk into a stupor again, since your passage here was like a dream. We did not see each other enough to get used to it with the result that all the good times I relive in memory are far too brief and evanescent.
---- Our formula for love on the wing is too sorrowful at heart, and not what we deserve.

---- Love

 

 

[1] Pegeen Vail (1926-1967) was the daughter of Peggy Guggenheim and the painter Laurence Vail, and an artist in her own right.


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Oct. 17 [1951]

You must still be in Sāo Paulo and I can sense your feverish excitement from here: The Biennale will at least have the merit of transporting you away from your daily worries, even if other difficulties arise concerning the organization of the exhibition. In any case, your room is your affair and I hope that you'll have fun presenting it in your own way——how I would like to be with you now!
---- Over here, the Max Ernsts have arrived. He is having an exhibition at Hugo's[1] in November. I assured him that I saw his name on the list of Americans who had been invited but he says he has heard nothing. Check to make sure and tell me. He has your printing press in Arizona and seems very happy about it but he did not express his thanks to you in any way. What a life.
---- As for Tanguy, he told me he has been invited.
---- I am hard at work on the paraffin and it works. It molds perfectly and keeps its shape while remaining very firm——and it is much less sensitive to heat than the much-vaunted wax, of which I have 55 pounds sent me by Socony-Vacuum.[2]
---- Naturally, I am molding 10 separate pieces of paraffin that I will join with the plaster on top.
---- I dreamed a very bad dream last night in which I was very displeased with you and your life and could see no light at the end of the tunnel after our being at sea for 6 years.
---- In your last letter you told me that V.[3] was better. Tell me in your next one if the "better" has continued; it would be an excellent indication that recovery is likely. Poor kid.
---- I am waiting for details about the Biennale, and some photos, please.
---- In the meantime, I think of you, of us, and I can't help but feel great sorrow, which I try to chase away by thinking of our brief good times.

---- Love

 

 

[1] The Hugo Gallery in New York was run by Alexander Iolas and specialized in Surrealist painting and sculpture.
[2] Socony-Vacuum was an oil company formed by the merger between the Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) and Vacuum Oil in 1931. In 1955, the company was renamed Socony Mobil Oil Company, and in 1963 it changed its trade name from Mobilgas to simply Mobil.
[3] This is likely to be the sick child referred to in Duchamp's Ietter of November 19, 1950.


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Oct. 25 [1951)

I can no longer remember the exact date of the opening of the Biennale, but I think it is very soon. So you must still be in Sao Paulo and very busy. Quickly send me some photos (snapshots) of the show and of your room.
---- Dubuffet will be arriving here; I have to go to a cocktail party held in his honor by the Matisses tomorow. I met him for the first time in 46 and found he had a very sympathetic side to him in his way of bubbling over with excitement. I will tell you how he takes to N.Y.
---- Winter seems full of promise: lots of exhibitions. Matisse at the Museum of Mod. Art, Ernst at Hugo's and Dubuffet at Matisse's.[1] And I was having such a peaceful time all through the summer!
---- As for Our Lady of Desires, I can manage to soften the paraffin and apply it to perfection (while still a little hot); I have obtained a mold that is perfect enough for what I want to do with it. I only have 5 or 6 pieces (molds) to do to cover the whole.
---- I am not very gay, unfortunately, and there are times when I am physically prostrate, which worries me somewhat. Long periods of sleep and waking up feeling what's-the-use——apprehending everything I have to do, even the unimportant details.
---- My studio has become one big pig trough full of plaster and bits of paraffin——impossible to clean.
---- And I know that the reason behind all that comes from us, and I am more and more convinced that our situation is hopeless.
---- I do not want to ruin your life, and all that we might do to change the course of things would only bring a semblance of happiness.
---- So I have come to accept the situation as it is and no longer seek to find some miracle solution.
---- I am happy when I think of you.

---- Love

 

 

[1] Pierre Matisse (1900-1989), son of Henri Matisse, was the owner and director of a gallery in New York bearing his name. Duchamp would marry Matisse's ex-wife, Alexina "Teeny"·Matisse, in 1954.


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Nov. 9 [1951]

Just received a letter from Tapié who tells me he has fully recovered. He is resuming all his former activities and asks me to recommend him to you that you might exhibit your small sculptures this year——I think he would be over the moon if you wrote him a line (4 rue des Morillons, 75015 Paris).
---- No coverage of the Biennale over here——but I read little. Doubtless you have received some news.
---- I still have the painful image before me of all those sharks attacking the Biennale from all sides just to get a little money out of it. And that is not the sort of thing that will encourage you to help such events, which were launched with the best intentions.
---- Nevertheless, I hope that your room was not violated by too many unwelcome intruders and that you are happy to be able to show a collection of works that is as complete as possible. I hope you will not forget to send me some photos.
---- Big Rousseau exhibition at Janis's, to which I have not yet gone.
---- The paraffin molding is coming along; I hope to finish the upper half soon——it is time consuming but fun. The paraffin, as tangible matter, is like a kind of soft opal and remains quite hard at room temperature, in the apartment.
---- Tell me in your next letter how V. is. Is the "getting better" continuing? That reminds me: Sonia Sekula[1] is in a similar situation and getting better, and will come out of it. It seems that cases can be treated with success today that would have been without hope 40 years ago.
---- And what about us? What is to become of us, far apart, forever far apart. I can't help constantly thinking of the stupid nonsense that keeps us separated. Love is not made of feats of endurance——and I find it terrifying to think that I can almost count on my fingers the number of times I will see you again in the whole of the rest of my life.
---- Work well on your N.Y. exhibit ion and try to come sometime in advance of the opening so that I can see you.

---- Love

P.S. I have also put the severed leg under the skin. It is marvelous——it is your leg and of such beauty!!

 

 

[1] Sonia Sekula (1918-1963) was a Swiss-born American painter associated with the Surrealist group. Throughout her life, she was hospitalized for nervous disorders, and it is possible that the child ″V″ to whom Duchamp refers may have suffered from clinical depression.


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May 24 [1952]
Thank you for your cable from Paris——I can feel your joy at being in the place that you prefer in all the world——and I am happy to hear the good news about the Sw. [Sweeney] exhibition.
---- As I said in my last letter, Roché was not very happy about the way Sw. had ″hung″ me——my two canvases are not side by side and both are in faraway corners with no light.
---- Of course I know that all artists want to be in the center and at eyelevel; and though I may be like the rest of them, I attach but little importance to it.
---- What I do attach importance to is the fact that I had to move heaven and earth to get the two canvases from the Arensbergs and the Philadelphia Museum and all for Sw.——who goes and sticks them in the corners in the dark.
---- But I also know that Sw. came under pressure from all the inhabitants of the dog-eat-dog pack that prowls around the Museum of Modern Art.
---- All things considered, I will not mention it to Sw. and please keep all this to yourself
---- (Why then should I place myself in Sw.'s hands for the book he has been planning to write for the last 6 years with such manifest indifference??).
---- All this makes me feel closer to you. But tell me about your projects——Venice? etc.——in your next letter. And especially about your coming here.
---- As usual, I will not be leaving N.Y., except at the end of August for my little annual tournament.
---- Am still in a state of great laziness and disgust a line from you does me good.
---- Love


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799 Broadway [undated, written between November 1967 and March 1968]

I wrote when I came back here at the end of Oct. and have had no news at all from you for over a year.
---- Perhaps you have lost my address (though easy to remember).
---- So write if only a line so that I know you still exist.
---- Nothing of any significance is underway here for me after these 2 years of exhibitions in London and Paris.
---- I feel much freer to do nothing now that I can invoke my 80 years to refuse any boring, shitty activities.
---- And yourself? Tell me what you are working on and whether you will be going to Europe this summer.
---- I will be leaving for Paris in early April and you can write to me poste restante Neuilly sur Seine between April and October.
---- See you soon perhaps.
---- Love


*Marcel Duchamp: Étant Donnés, by Michael R. Taylor
Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 402-425.


----- TRANSLATOR'S NOTE

----- Marcel Duchamp maintains a formal tone in the letters to Maria Martins, and he regularly employs verbs of obligation and exhortation. In fact, in other correspondence with friends, colleagues, and family members, his general tone is rarely relaxed or conversational, and this tenor has been maintained in the English translation of the artist's letters to Martins. This can be seen, for example, in the avoidance of contracted forms——with the exception of can't and don't, which Duchamp use frequently in his English correspondence——and by preferring the future simple tense when expressing events set in the immediate future. Changes of tone therefore can be felt when these "rules" are not upheld. In the translation, the impersonal and the passive also have been favored for general pronouncements, while both one and you have been avoided. Although one would have struck the right note in English (being formal, unlike on in French), this impersonal pronoun, by definition, entails the notion of a class or group (of predictable habits) and contradicts any idea of the radical singularity of individuals. It is a curious fact that Duchamp avoids the common French word on. Its rarity in his writings is a revealing character trait, proving more than a certain reluctance to entertain the notion that "one says", "one does", "one knows." Duchamp evacuates "one" from his self, both linguistically and philosophically.
----- Evidently, Duchamp did not reread his letters before sending them, in which case he would have caught certain errors or anomalies in grammar, syntax, spelling, and punctuation, as well as repetitions. Yet the letters rarely contain ambiguities and they read clearly. More-or-less standard written French alternates with sudden informality, resulting in an economy of language. Numbers are written in Arabic numerals, grammatical subjects are elided when obvious, abbreviations are used for recurring words, hyphens are omitted, and so forth. There is nothing strictly eccentric here. Only his use of dashes is truly idiosyncratic: They do not function as normal dashes but instead form part of a range of markers that also includes periods, equal signs, line jumps, and new paragraphs.
----- The French transcription retains all the original punctuation, spelling mistakes, and grammatical faults. The result is just as easy to read as if everything had been corrected and provides a perfect record of the manuscript. In the English, however, everything has been normalized. This has been done both to maximize readability and to minimize any creative use of punctuation or syntax in English. One concession nevertheless been made: Duchamp's often surprising paragraph jumps have been respected, partly to make it easier to read the French and the English together, but mainly to keep something of the freshness of the original. My thanks to Jacqueline Matisse Monnier for her careful rereading of the transcript and translation.

—— Paul Edwards


BIBLIOGRAPHIES

aMarcel Duchamp's Letters to Maria Martins. Photo: back row: Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, Maria Martins, Enrico Donati; front row: Marcel Duchamp, Frederick Kiesler. - Woodburry, Connecticut 1947. (1943?)

Back row: Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, Maria Martins, Enrico Donati; front row: Marcel Duchamp, Frederick Kiesler. - Woodburry, Connecticut 1947. (1943?)