Mauro Santa (1962-1963), title of painting not created yet
Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés
Michael R. Taylor
CONSTRUCTION (Part 2)*
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 75-87, pp. 121-123. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
Part 1 ---- Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
MY WOMAN WITH THE OPEN PUSSY
Duchamp's correspondence with Maria Martins establishes a chronology for the construction of the mannequin and adds significant details to the existing literature on the work. For example, these crucial letters establish that by May 1949 the artist had constructed the full-scale female figure in plastilene (an oil-based, nondrying clay), and in the following month had Ettore Salvatore cast the mannequin in plaster. We also know that he had acquired parchment by July 1947 and had begun to experiment with ways to shape the skin by the fall of 1948. Melissa Meighan[61-a] has determined that the material used by Duchamp to cover the final Étant donnés figure is not pigskin, as it often has been described, but rather parchment — animal skin that is mechanically and chemically processed but not tanned, and that is thin yet strong and very pliable when wet. It has not been determined whether the parchment that was used to cover the final Étant donnés mannequin came from a cow or a calf. Similarly, it has not been possible to determine whether two parchment body fragments (also discovered in the New York studio; FIG. 2a.21 and 2a.22), molded into the forms of the upper and lower torsos of the mannequin, came from an adult or a calf. Therefore, the term parchment, rather than vellum or cow skin, best describes the skin from which Duchamp formed the Étant donnés mannequin.
---- The use of parchment is in keeping with the personal nature of the materials used in Étant donnés, since his Paris-based lover Mary Reynolds was a bookbinder who often employed vellum and other animal skins in her cover designs. Although the preliminary studies for Étant donnés feature the voluptuous body of Maria Martins, these works often resemble the format and proportions of books or book covers. As discussed earlier, the leather that covers the plaster figure in the 1946-48 study (see FIG. 2a.14 - Part 1) can be understood as a conscious reference to his earlier relationship with Reynolds. The use of parchment to cover the mannequin in Étant donnés was thus not accidental but most likely a deliberate allusion to Reynolds, who died in 1950, shortly after the first full-scale version of the nude had been cast in plaster.
---- On October 12, 1948. Duchamp told Martins that he was going to spend the next few days "putting my skin under the nails," before making a definitive test that would allow him to begin applying the parchment to the mannequin, once it had been cast in plaster from the full-scale plastilene model. That Duchamp tested the appearance of the skin before applying it to the model is confirmed by two surviving parchment fragments: one of the upper torso with Martins's breasts and the other of her genital region, which the artist hand-painted in shades of pink and other colors. These parchment body fragments reveal that the artist experimented with the appearance of the skin, painting it from below and above in a series of painstaking tests that appear to have ended only when he was pleased with the finished results. A subsequent letter, dated April 7, 1949, mentioned that he "had very nearly finished my woman's hand," which "did not look too 'wooden,'" thus suggesting that Duchamp was then modifying and putting the last touches on the plastilene sculpture, in preparation for casting it in plaster and covering it with parchment. In this same letter, Duchamp referred to the figure as "my woman with the open pussy," an appellation that confirms the personal and highly erotic nature of the project.
---- Assembling the recumbent female mannequin appears to have been a lengthy process that took more than a decade to complete, from the mid-1940s until the late 1950s, and that involved several stages of molding and casting. Following standard sculpting procedures, in May 1949 Duchamp completed a full-scale mannequin in plastilene, based on the three preliminary studies that he made between 1946 and 1948 (see FIG. 2a.4, FIG. 2a.1, and FIG. 2a.14 - Part 1). On May 31, 1949, a relieved and exhausted Duchamp informed Martins that "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." Toward the end of the letter, Duchamp explained that he was "much more taken" with the idea of the "woman in her skin," which he hoped to apply around September 1, although he was still unsure whether to paint the parchment. His next letter, of June 6, related that the complicated molding process had been handled by "the Italian," a reference to their former teacher Ettore Salvatore. Duchamp also relayed his plans to amend the plaster cast, presumably to make it more lifelike, once it arrived in his studio at the end of the 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" — no doubt a reference to the diminutive leather-covered plaster torso now owned by the Moderna Museet.
---- "My plaster cast is back home," a pleased Duchamp wrote to Martins on June 20, 1949, "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." A 1949 photograph of the plaster sculpture (FIG. 2a.23) shows the recumbent female model after Duchamp had worked eight hours a day to retouch, file, and chasten its ugly, sterile-looking surface, removing the thin top layer of the "intractable plaster," so that it no longer gave the impression of having been molded — in other words, "redoing it completely." With its full and rounded breasts, the seamless body was indeed more voluptuous than the parchment-covered plaster torso, a work that is flatter and less lifelike than the "lascivious" full-scale plaster sculpture.
---- The ravishingly beautiful appearance of this now-lost plaster cast, after Duchamp had filed down its offending top surface with a rasp or sandpaper, can be discerned in the 1949 photograph. The verisimilitude of the body's musculature and shape suggests that the plastilene female mannequin was augmented with casts taken directly from the curvaceous body of Martins. This accumulation of body casts inevitably endowed the figure with some disturbing anatomical inaccuracies, seen especially in the figure's hairless vagina, which as art historian Amelia Jones has pointed out in reference - to the final Étant donnés figure has no "'labia majora' [or] 'labia minora' in view, no vaginal vestibule or clitoris, but neither is the figure Barbie-doll smooth and without genitals." Although described as a gash like castration wound, the physical deformations of the genital area, seen in the 1949 photograph and the completed work, almost certainly were caused by the body-casting process that Martins underwent, as well as the figure's accretion of cast body parts.
---- The photograph taken in 1949 of the plaster version of the mannequin reveals that Duchamp made very few changes to the female nude over the next two decades. His initial idea, as seen in the 1948 drawing Réflection à main (Hand Reflection), was for the figure to hold up a mirror in her clenched fist so that the viewer/voyeur would see his or her reflection while looking through the peephole (FIG. 2a.24). In the 1949 photograph, the plaster figure can be seen holding a wooden stick or dowel, similar to the cylindrical handle depicted in Hand Reflection. Duchamp eventually decided that the mannequin would hold an old-fashioned gas lamp with a jet flame inside a funnel of frosted glass. Since the lamp inside Étant donnés would be lit by electricity rather than gas, Duchamp rewired an old-fashioned gas mantle to house a small electric lightbulb of frosted glass that he painted a light-green color, producing a soft, almost ethereal glow that simulated gas light. As a student at the École Bossuet in Rouen, Duchamp had made a charcoal sketch of this type of lighting fixture, which was manufactured by the Belgian lighting company Bec Auer (FIG. 2a.25). This prophetic drawing of a hanging gas lamp was made around 1902, at a time when the artist was boarding at the school, and, like many of the themes and obsessions that play out in his later work, the idea that the illuminating gas carried a sexual charge can be connected with the masturbatory fantasies of his teenage years. This psychic connection with desire perhaps was suggested to the impressionable schoolboy by the company's commercial posters, widespread during Duchamp's youth, which often depicted beautiful, scantily clad young women holding aloft the phallus-shaped incandescent burners in a moment of erotic surprise (fig. 2.20).
---- It is tempting to speculate that Duchamp replaced the looking glass with the Bec Auer lamp after realizing that a mirror would shatter the voyeur's sense of invulnerability, since the reflection would raise the viewer's consciousness of the act of looking, thus destroying the voyeuristic pleasure in viewing the illicit scene. It has also been suggested that the artist's supervision of the installation of the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which he began planning in 1950 and eventually installed in 1954, may have led him to return to the motif of the torch-bearing Statue of Liberty that he had used earlier in the book cover for Young Cherry Trees Secured against Hares (see FIG. 2a.3 - Part 1), given the historical ties between the statue and the city of Philadelphia.
---- On March 19, 1950, the artist informed Martins that he was applying a third coat of pink paint to "the white orchid," most likely a reference to the blanched color of the 1949 plaster sculpture, which he painted in order to create "a skin color that will be as natural as possible." In the following month, he reported that "Our Lady of Desire is now flesh-pink" but that he was "struggling against an overly fondant candy color." The sacrilegious name "Our Lady of Desire" appears in two other letters, in one case as "Our Lady of Desires," and perhaps refers to Duchamp's efforts to persuade Martins to join him in a secular convent or monastery akin to Saint Jerome's study. The name is used again in Duchamp's letter of September 5, 1950, in which he also described the pink-hued plaster sculpture as a "hussy," thus suggesting that by this time he regarded the sculpture as a sexualized anthropomorphic entity.
---- Duchamp's September 5, 1950, letter to Martins reveals that he had almost completed his work on the figure and was preparing to apply the skin: "I am still dressing her in her finery of nails and she waits patiently for her clothing of skin." Before the parchment was wrapped around the plaster sculpture, it was dampened so that it would take the shape of the torso, but the skin failed to follow the form of the figure once it dried. At one point, Duchamp used individual sections of Ettore Salvatore's mold for the 1949 plaster sculpture to press the pliable, damp parchment into the hard-to-reach crevices and folds of the mannequin's body. It is possible that the underside of each plaster piece was finished to form a flat surface that could be weighted to press the parchment into the hollows and creases of the figure. These plaster pieces were later recycled as recast or remanufactured erotic objects and, in some cases, cast in editions that were exhibited during Duchamp's life time. Unfortunately, Duchamp's early experiments in applying the parchment in the fall of 1950 were 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 ... Come soon — I am in a state of desolation that calls for your aid."
---- Martins had returned to Brazil permanently in early 1950, to begin a new life with her recently retired husband and their children, effectively bringing to an end her affair with Duchamp. In retrospect, it seems clear that the artist concentrated on the time-consuming Étant donnés project, albeit with an attitude of indifference and a lack of emotion bordering on disgust, in an effort to avoid thinking about Martins. "Work is a sexual stimulant," he explained to Martins on May 13, 1951, before admitting that his enthusiasm for the tableau-construction had "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."
---- Martins, to whom Duchamp evidently deferred in matters of sculpture, returned to New York in the early fall of 1951, and it must have been during this visit that she suggested wax could be used as a counter mold to hold the skin firmly in place. In all probability, Duchamp by this stage was working on the second and final figure, possibly from the original mold made by Ettore Salvatore, following the destruction of the 1949 plaster sculpture when he removed the skin after it failed to follow the form of the figure when it dried. The original plaster sculpture — which Teeny Duchamp remembered as very beautiful, with a soft, velvety texture — is known today only through the 1949 black-and-white photograph. In a letter to Martins dated October 8, 1951, Duchamp explained that he was about to "start on the paraffin mold, having decided that the wax you suggested is much less firm than paraffin." Nine days later, he revealed to Martins that the paraffin "molds perfectly and keeps its shape while remaining very firm and it is much less sensitive to heat than the much-vaunted wax.... I am molding 10 separate pieces of paraffin that I will join with the plaster on top." The reference to the "plaster on top" suggests that Duchamp planned to use a single mold — a mother mold — what would hold together the ten paraffin pieces over the damp parchment, allowing him to apply enough pressure for the skin to follow more closely the form of the plaster sculpture. On October 25, Duchamp relayed to Martins that he could "manage to soften the paraffin and apply it to perfection (while still a little hot)," and that he had only "5 or 6 pieces (molds) to do to cover the whole." In the same letter, Duchamp drolly described his studio as "one big pig trough full of plaster and bits of paraffin," which made it "impossible to clean."
---- In his letter of October 8, 1951, Duchamp also revealed that he was "putting the skin on the severed leg while waiting for the rest of madame to dry out. The leg will be finished this week." Here he referred to the detachable left leg of the mannequin, bent at the knee, which had been cast in plaster from Martins's lower thigh, knee, and calf. The left arm of the figure, which holds the Bee Auer gas lamp, was also detachable; the forearm was threaded onto a wooden dowel that is attached to the table that supports the figure, while the leg is attached to the torso with a metal tab. The artist appears to have been aware as early as 1946 of the need to cast these limbs separately, since the left arm and leg in the leather-over-plaster study at the Moderna Museet are hidden behind folds of velvet, roughly demarcating the points at which the arm and leg of the final mannequin would be attached. In the Manual of Instructions, Duchamp notes that the joint in the parchment between the leg and the thigh in the Étant donnés mannequin was not very neat, and therefore needed to be hidden behind twigs and dead leaves, thus confirming the presence of the joint in the final work. On November 9, 1951, Duchamp described work on the remaining paraffin pieces as "time consuming but fun. The paraffin, as tangible matter, is like a kind of soft opal and remains quite hard at room temperature." In a postscript, the artist revealed that he had "put the severed leg under the skin. It is marvelous — it is your leg and of such beauty!!"
---- The experiment of placing the parchment-covered figure under ten paraffin pieces in a plaster mother mold appears to have solved the problem of molding the parchment so that it followed the contours of the figure. Unfortunately, Duchamp remained dissatisfied with the lifeless appearance of the mannequin's skin and removed the parchment from the plaster torso at some point in the early to mid-1950s. The artist's eventual solution to the mannequin's unsatisfactory skin color was to paint it from underneath, while the top surface of the parchment was stippled to obtain a hyper realistic effect of pink, flesh like human skin. This plaster figure also was destroyed when the skin was removed, but two shellacked plaster fragments survive: the detachable left leg (FIG. 2a.26) and the body's lower torso, containing the abdomen, groin, and thighs (FIG. 2a.27).
---- To maintain the shape of the parchment torso after it was separated from the plaster form, the artist placed it over an armature (discussed in detail by Meighan, pp. 247-49[86-a]) that was made of steel, wire, wood, commercial putty, adhesive, and cold "solder," and fastened it with countless small brass screws. No longer free-floating, this shell-like parchment sculpture is the one that Duchamp placed on a bier of twigs and branches in the Étant donnés diorama now owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Thus, by the end of the 1950s, the figure was completed to the artist's satisfaction, and after that time Duchamp only added a few dabs of paint to cover up the cracks that had started to appear in the parchment.
THE EROTIC OBJECTS
In the early 1950s, the artist created a series of copper-electroplated erotic objects that were based initially on the plaster mold that Ettore Salvatore had used to make the 1949 full-scale sculpture, and that are discussed by Andrew Lins.[87-a] These forms were redeployed by Duchamp in 1950 in his unsuccessful attempt to press the parchment skin into the most intimate spaces of the plaster torso. Four of these negative wedge like forms were subsequently recycled as erotic sculptures and presented as gifts to friends or loved ones: Feuille de vigne femelle (Female Fig Leaf; 1950), Objet-dard (Dart-Object; 1951), Coin de Chasteté (Wedge of Chastity; 1954), and Not a Shoe (1950), all of which can be considered unique works of art.
---- Duchamp took great delight in the highly ambiguous and sexually suggestive shapes of these copper-electro-plated mold fragments, such as the phallic Object-dard, a plaster cast excised from the crease underneath or around the same figure's left breast (FIG. 2a.28). Before electro-plating this object the artist attached a metal rib into the plaster, so that it resembled a veined and detumescent penis rather than a work derived from a woman's breast, thus allowing Duchamp to create a punning title on the male organ as both a penetrating dart (dard) and an art object (objet d'art). This inversion of body parts speaks both to the artist's longstanding interest in challenging fixed gender roles, as seen in his lascivious Rrose Sélavy persona, as well as Duchamp's playful investigations of what he called the inframince (infrathin), in which inside becomes outside, front becomes back, concave becomes convex, solid becomes void, female becomes male, and vice versa.
---- The inframince malleability of the erotic objects perhaps is best seen in Female Fig Leaf, which as its title implies can be used to conceal female sexual organs but also can be used as a mold to generate additional casts (FIG. 2a.29). Indeed, this copper-electroplated plaster object has generated a number of subsequent editions, beginning in 1951, when the artist authorized Man Ray to make an edition of ten plaster copies. On March 12, 1951, Duchamp pressed the sculpture, wrapped inside a brown paper parcel, into his friend's hands; as Man Ray's ship was preparing to leave New York for Le Havre. The object originally was modeled or molded from a body part, perhaps the vulva or a pair of buttocks, although the sculpture's flesh like protuberances failed to disclose the exact location of the body imprint or even its gender. After the public unveiling of Étant donnés, Female Fig Leaf was identified as a plaster impression of the external genitalia of the splayed figure in the tableau-construction. This information is only partially true, since the work fits snugly into the genital region of the plaster torso fragment (FIG. 2b.3). This discrepancy supports the idea that most of the erotic objects were made from molds of the 1949 plaster sculpture cast by Ettore Salvatore, which Duchamp later used in a failed effort to press the parchment into the crevices and folds of the female figure.
---- Of course, when giving this highly suggestive object to Man Ray, Duchamp would have been aware of the traditional role of the fig leaf in the history of art as both protecting and concealing male and female genitalia. In a tableau vivant of Lucas Cranach's Adam and Eve in Paris in 1924, he played a painfully thin Adam to Brogna Perlmutter's voluptuous Eve during the intermission of Francis Picabia's ballet Relâche (No Performance). Duchamp covered his genitals with a rose, no doubt as a reference to his salacious alter ego Rrose Sélavy, and he may have had in mind Man Ray's photograph of the event, Ciné-Sketch (fig. 2.21), when he titled the object and gave it to his friend.
---- Duchamp and Man Ray had been close friends and collaborators on numerous projects for almost forty years. Indeed, by the early 1950s their friendship and working relationship could be compared to a happy marriage in which both partners implicitly understood the actions of the other, without any need for verbal communication. Duchamp neither explained the mysterious object to Man Ray nor revealed the existence of his final work, but the gift nonetheless implicated his friend in Étant donnés. The same is true of his old friend Julien Levy, who received Not a Shoe (FIG. 2a.30) as a gift in 1950 without knowing of its origin as a broken mold taken from the nude's perineum and anus. However, the work's resemblance to a shoe or boot may have led the artist to give it this clever title as a warning against reading its form too literally. Despite the proliferation of these strange and highly suggestive objects in the early 1950s — some of which were publicly exhibited, while others were given as gifts to friends and loved ones — Duchamp was free to work on his tableau-construction throughout the rest of the decade without any outside interference, since these works had singularly failed to arouse suspicion among his colleagues that he might be working on an unknown project involving molds and body casts.
---- For the 1951 edition of Female Fig Leaf (FIG. 2a.31), Man Ray painted the ten plaster copies in a metallic-brown color to resemble the color of the original copper-electroplated cast (FIG. 2a.29). In 1961, Duchamp agreed to an edition of ten bronze casts, issued by the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris (FIG. 2a.31). This erotic object clearly relates to Duchamp's earlier interest in gender indeterminacy and the liminal spaces of the inframince, as seen in the cover that the artist designed in 1956 for the first edition of Breton's Le Surréalisme, même, which turned the Female Fig Leaf inside out (FIG. 2a.32). That same year, Duchamp commissioned a New York photographer to shoot the work in a rotated and reversed position, and then retouched the negative so that the convex cast crease of the labial slit would read as the concave opening of a pair of male or female buttocks. This interest in gender ambiguity is seen again in Wedge of Chastity, in which a wedge-shaped piece of copper-electroplated plaster is partially submerged in a piece of pink plastic of the type commonly used to make dental impressions. However, as Helen Molesworth has observed, the initial suggestion of oral sex drastically changes when the wedge-shaped form is removed from the dental plaster, since "the rough edge gives way to a shocking pink interior that is an intensely intimate, loving, and erotic depiction of a pussy." Incidentally, the wedge section that fits snuggly in the pink groove of the dental plastic is close in form to the cast of Not a Shoe, notably the only one of the copper-electroplated plasters to be tided in English.
---- Three other, previously unpublished erotic objects were also made at some point between 1950 and 1952, using similar pieces of the plaster mold that Salvatore had employed to cast the full-scale torso. Duchamp's decision not to cast them in large editions or release them from the studio for public exhibition kept knowledge of their existence a closely guarded secret within the artist's family and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has stored two of these objects since February 1969, after they were discovered along with two painted plaster versions of Female Fig Leaf in the artist's New York studio following his death. This trio of unique works of art derives from the mold of the 1949 lost plaster sculpture and consists of a flat object shaped like a lady's boot (FIG. 2a.33), which appears to be a fragment of the mold for the left thigh; a loopy, U-shaped object taken from the curve beneath and surrounding the right breast (FIG. 2a.34), which almost certainly was made at the same time as Objet-dard and which it closely resembles, although its symmetrical shape may explain why Duchamp preferred to exhibit the more phallic object; and an object shaped similarly to Not a Shoe that appears to come from the right armpit of the mannequin's body (FIG. 2a.35). Finally, in 1959, Duchamp made two more-highly-polished copper-electroplated sculptures based on cast impressions of Teeny's clenched hand (FIG. 2a.36 and 2a.37), thus bringing to nine the total number of erotic objects related to the casting process of Étant donnés.
---- Like other examples from the artist's series of erotic objects, these works share a domestic scale and were probably used as paperweights or bookends in the studio. As interesting shapes with deeply personal meanings for Duchamp, they also may have been displayed on tables and mantles, but their presence in the studio means that, additionally, they may have served as mnemonic devices related to his relationship with Maria Martins, since they bore the indexical trace of some of the most intimate parts of her body, namely, her genitals, perineum, anus, breasts, thigh, and armpit. On February 12, 1951, the year after Martins returned to Brazil with her husband and children, a disconsolate Duchamp told his former lover that he had nothing going on his life, and was alone except for "my little electroplated plaster casts."
THE LANDSCAPE BACKDROP
In 1949, Duchamp presented Hand Reflection (FIG. 2a.24), mounted under Plexiglas in the lid of a deluxe edition of the Boîte-en-valise, as a Christmas present to Henri and Hélène Hoppenot, in part as thanks for their hospitality during his summer vacation with Mary Reynolds in Switzerland three years earlier, but perhaps also to acknowledge silently the significance of the landscape and waterfall at Bellevue, which he would not have found without the recommendation of Mrs. Hoppenot. The couple, of course, was unaware of Duchamp's underground activities on his new project, and must have been entertained yet surely baffled by the artist's pencil drawing of a hand clenching a cylindrical handle or dowel, at the top of which a circular aperture, measuring 2 3/8 inches in diameter, had been cut out of the paper. Behind the cutout, Duchamp placed a real mirror, which faced the viewer when the Boîte-en-valise was opened.
---- The landscape backdrop had its origins in the seven known photographs that Duchamp took of the plummeting waterfall at Bellevue in 1946 (see FIG. 2a.6-2a.12 - Part 1). These images supplied the artist with different viewpoints of the hillside and cascading water. Recent research by Price, Sutherland, Homolka, and Torok[93-a] has shown that Duchamp used enlarged fragments of the photographs (FIG. 2b.4 see p. 267, fig. C. 7) to produce a hand-painted landscape photocollage on plywood (see FIG. 2a.2 - Part 1) that served as the study for the trompe l'oeil backdrop of Étant donnés. This photocollage technique had been used earlier by Frederick Kiesler in the Duchamp special issue of View magazine, where disparate images were spliced together and superimposed to form a single image of the artist in his studio (see fig. 2.5). Although the 1946 photographs had been used in an earlier study for the work (see FIG. 2a.1 - Part 1) — in which the body of Maria Martins is partly occluded from the foreground of one of these waterfall pictures by an image of a tall tree — Duchamp does not appear to have worked on the backdrop itself until the early 1950s. By this time, he knew the exact dimensions of the room . at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that would eventually house his secret assemblage, and he could construct the landscape backdrop accordingly.
---- A clue to Duchamp's renewed engagement with the landscape element of his tableau-construction is Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood, made while on vacation in Minnesota in the summer of 1953 (FIG. 2a.38). According to the artist's handwritten pencil inscription, which runs along the lower edge of the drawing, he drew this charming sketch in the early morning of August 21 as a present for his hosts, Marjorie and Frank Brookes Hubachek, while he was staying on their houseboat at the west end of Basswood Bay, in the lake-filled Qyetico-Superior wilderness area that straddles the border between the United States and Canada. Duchamp's inscription reads: "La lune du 21 août 1953 / pour Margerie [sic] et Brookes Hubachek / Très affectueusement Marcel Duchamp. Basswood" (The moon of August 21, 1953 / for Margerie and Brookes Hubachek / Very affectionately Marcel Duchamp. Basswood).
---- The drawing's importance for the artist's secret project is underscored by his persistent efforts to have this relatively minor work included in his 1963 retrospective exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum. As Walter Hopps, the curator of this landmark presentation, later recalled:
---- Hubachek recorded his first impressions of the drawing's genesis in a typewritten note signed and dated August 21, 1953, which he taped to the backing board of the work. His text sheds additional light on the work's execution:
The artist's materials mentioned in this account have been verified by scientific analysis.[97-a]
---- Duchamp provided further information about the work in an undated interview with his dealer Arturo Schwarz:
---- The brother of Duchamp's companion Mary Reynolds, Hubachek was an attorney and art collector who became a close friend and supporter of Duchamp in the years following Reynolds's death from uterine cancer in 1950. In an autobiographical written in 1974, Hubachek recalled That the two men first met in Paris in 1927, although he could not rule out an earlier meeting in the French provinces, given that the artist's prolonged relationship with Reynolds began sometime in the summer of 1923 or early 1924. Hubachek also remembered visiting Duchamp in his "diggings in the old [Greenwich] Village area" during a trip to New York during World War II, but their close relationship developed out of adversity, when Reynolds was hospitalized with uremia in April 1950. Hubachek offered to finance a trip to Paris so that Duchamp, suspecting cancer and fearing the worst, could be by Reynolds's side during her illness. The artist arrived in the French capital on September 19, just eleven days before she died. Appalled at Duchamp's precarious financial position, Hubachek provided substantial living expenses for the artist to stay in France to arrange the funeral, including Reynolds's cremation, as well as to empty her house of her possessions.
---- When Duchamp returned to the United States after Reynolds's death, Hubachek used part of the inheritance from his sister as well as his own money to set up a trust fund that eventually provided the artist with an income of about $500 per month. In 1951, Duchamp received $900 in yearly dividends, but by the end of his life he was receiving nearly $6,000 per year. The financial security provided by the Marcel Duchamp Trust enabled the artist to work in complete secrecy on Étant donnés. As Hubachek later explained: "It must be remembered that we were personal friends, our friendship was initiated and revolved about my sister of whom he thought a great deal and that I placed no limit on the amount of money or how long these annual payments would be made."
---- Their friendly yet legally binding financial arrangement meant that Frank Brookes Hubachek (known to his friends as Brookes) and his son Frank Brookes "Bill" Hubachek, Jr., who was designated as the sole trustee of the trust, regularly communicated with the artist regarding financial investments and payments. Bill Hubachek also issued Duchamp his quarterly and eventually his biannual dividend checks and sent the artist a yearly report of the trust's performance. In return, Duchamp helped Brookes Hubachek acquire works of art, mostly prints and drawings by his brother Jacques Villon, one of the lawyer's favorite artists. The sense of a mutual relationship ensured that a close friendship grew between Marcel Duchamp and Brookes Hubachek.
---- The amity between the two men no doubt was cemented wough their holidays together at Basswood Lake, the first of which took place during the summer that Duchamp drew Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood. The artist treated his stay as a great adventure, and enjoyed the dense forest and wildlife, which he found. to be physically soothing and utterly enchanting. As he enthusiastically recounted in a 1953 letter to his future wife, Teeny, the weather had been superb, with not a single day of rain, inspiring him to explore the lakes and woods on the Hubachek property, where he came across a dead bear, as well as a tame doe near the houseboat where he slept at night. Duchamp even tried his hand at angling and caught a small fish. Despite the novelty of the wild surroundings for a city dweller, he fitted perfectly into family life at Basswood Lake and everybody enjoyed his presence there.
---- Following his stay, Duchamp wrote to Marjorie and Brookes Hubachek from Cazenovia, where he was participating in the annual New York State Chess Association tournament, to thank them for "those wonderful days in Basswood — It was all new to me, real wilderness and the study of its secrets and the worship of wood in its native state. To all that you added the sweetest form of hospitality in the friendly atmosphere of your family life." Duchamp even suggested that the "physical relaxation" of his time at Basswood Lake had helped him win his first game in the competition at Cazenovia, which he proudly informed his friends was "against a very strong opponent." He never forgot his first trip to the Hubachek property, with its vast body of water that made the lake at Cazenovia look like "a midget." Duchamp returned to Basswood Lake in August 1956, this time in the company of Teeny, to enjoy. another relaxing vacation on the Hubachek property, with its "emotionally marvelous" lakeside view.
---- Although his law firm, Hubachek and Kelly, was based in Chicago, Brookes spent a great deal of time at Basswood Lake, whose natural beauty he had worked tirelessly to preserve through ecological conservation measures ahead of their time. His goal was "to leave a real wilderness heritage for succeeding generations," including the tall white and Norway pines that can be seen in Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood. Mary Reynolds, too, had spent many summer vacations with her family in the northern Minnesota wilderness. In the early 1960s, Hubachek erected a Cross of Lorraine across the lake from his cabin as a memorial both to her and to her role in the French Resistance during World War II.
---- Hubachek's passion for Basswood Lake, as well as his keen environmental awareness and knowledge of the history and ecology of the Quetico-Superior wilderness, provided the background to Duchamp's romantically evocative sketch of the majestic pine trees and their Rorschach-like reflection in the deep, blue lake. As Arturo Schwarz has argued, Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood resonates with works from earlier in the artist's career, such as Paysage à Blainville (Landscape at Blainville; 1902), in which the tall, slender beech trees are reflected in a pool of water (fig. 2.22). The yellow moon and its shimmering reflection in the Basswood drawing also recall the rectified readymade Pharmacie (1914), a commercial print of a nighttime winter landscape on which Duchamp carefully placed two touches of gouache to evoke the jars of colored liquids displayed in the windows of French pharmacies. The timber point on Basswood Lake may have brought back memories of the bare trees and winding stream in the 1914 print, which the artist recently had reissued in a limited edition of one hundred hand-colored prints that were included in the special Duchamp issue of View magazine in 1945 (FIG. 2a.39). In Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood, the artist repeated his earlier, radically simple gesture of transformation in Pharmacie by adding two bursts of yellow crayon to punctuate the similarly monochromatic surface.
---- As a gift for friends and a memento of a shared vacation in the wilderness of Minnesota's border lake region, the moonlit sketch can be compared to other works made by the artist during holidays in the countryside, such as the swiftly rendered likeness of John Quinn, a prominent lawyer and art collector who brought the artist to Spring Lake on the New Jersey shore for a week's holiday in the summer of 1915. Drawing portraits of friends and loved ones and sketching landscapes on summer vacations outside the city have long been outlets for artists, providing welcome diversions from the more labor-intensive activities of oil painting or sculpting, as well as opportunities to explore new subjects and to reconnect with the manual side of representation. Duchamp, however, subverted this tradition through the use of unexpected, nontraditional materials, taken from everyday life rather than art-supply shops, such as the talcum powder and chocolate in the sketch of Basswood Lake and the pine needles that pierce the paper in Des Délices de Kermoune (The Delights of Kermoune) (1958; fig. 2.23). Duchamp made the latter in gratitude for a vacation spent at the countryside villa of Claude and Bertrande Blancpain, in the hills above Sainte-Maxime on the French Riviera, where the artist stayed with Teeny and his sister Suzanne from July 17 to August 1, 1958.
---- Like the compelling portrait of John Quinn, which Duchamp made with just a few strokes of the pen, Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood is an unexpected marvel of fidelity. The work succinctly captures the natural beauty of the lake's nighttime shoreline with a sense of immediacy that comes from working on site and using such extraordinarily delicate materials. Despite its apparent spontaneity, the drawing contains a high level of factual accuracy. Indeed, the veracity of Duchamp's moonlit sketch is confirmed when the work is compared to Basswood Lake, Minnesota (1959), a photograph by John Szarkowski that depicts the same view across the bay, although slightly to the left (see fig. 2.24).
---- In a 1969 letter to Anne d'Harnoncourt, Hubachek identified the trees visible along the opposite shoreline in both works as "a mass of white pine and Norway pine with a strip of muskeg at one point. There was a gap where the skyline was very ragged due to a bad storm which had passed through and taken out many trees." Szarkowski's photograph captures with exquisite lyricism and radical simplicity the natural beauty of the timber point across Basswood Bay in an image that, as the curator Sandra S. Phillips has convincingly argued, "demonstrates an awareness of Harry Callahan's grasses at the water's edge, as fine as a Chinese painting." Although Szarkowski was unaware of the existence of Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood at the time he took his magnificent photograph, he was delighted when Hubachek pointed out to him that the work slightly overlapped with Duchamp's earlier and remarkably faithful drawing of the skyline, with its ragged outline of trees: "The two trees at the left of his sketch are the same two at the right of your photograph. So the two overlap." Given the fact that the two works shared an identical panoramic view of the wooded point, facing south across Basswood Lake, it is tempting to speculate that Szarkowski stayed on the same lime houseboat as Duchamp, which Hubachek later told d'Harnoncourt was "moored at a small dock on the edge of a circular bay."
---- Hubachek also explained that he had hung in his Chicago office "a mural photograph ... of the skyline (in the daytime, of course) taken from the point at which Marcel's houseboat rested. [Duchamp's] drawing overlaps the right-hand edge of the mural to the extent of the two trees" (see fig. 2.25). The letter led Anne d'Harnoncourt and Walter Hopps to argue, in their masterful 1969 essay on Étant donnés published in the Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, that "Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood was drawn partly from life, from a boat on the water, and partly from a photomural of the same shore line hanging in a friend's house." At the time, the two Duchamp scholars were unaware that the mural-size photograph in Hubachek's office, published here for the first time, was an enlargement of Szarkowski's Basswood Lake, Minnesota, and therefore could not have been made before 1959, thus ruling it out as a source for Duchamp's drawing.
---- Unlike the crisp realism and tonal richness of Szarkowski's photograph, Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood has a blurry, impressionistic appearance that Duchamp achieved by rubbing and smearing the chocolate and talcum powder into the blotting paper. He softened the outline of the trees and their reflection in the water, thus re-creating the misty, moonlit scene. The hazy atmosphere is redolent of the Nocturnes of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, as well as Claude Monet's pastels and oil paintings of London's fogbound bridges. Like Duchamp at Basswood Lake, Whistler and Monet created their nocturnal scenes while tourists or visitors. However, Duchamp's deliberate use of chocolate as a medium undercuts any attempt to categorize him as a latter-day impressionist, especially when consideration is given to the disdain for retinal art he frequently expressed in letters and interviews.
---- The choice of chocolate for the heavy, dark shadows of the pine trees likely evoked for Duchamp memories of the rotating chocolate grinder in The Large Glass, as well as his oil studies for that great allegory of frustrated sexual desire, including Chocolate Grinder, No.1 (1913; fig. 2.26) and Chocolate Grinder, No.2 (1914). Both works were inspired by a mechanism that had fascinated Duchamp as a schoolboy: the steam-powered chocolategrinding machine in the window of Gamelin, a well- known confectionery shop on the rue Beauvoisine in Rouen. The childhood memory of the aroma of hot chocolate wafting enticingly down the streets of the French city became connected in the artist's mind with his burgeoning sexuality. Like the Bee Auer lamp that hung from the ceiling of his boarding school in Rouen and suggested to the young schoolboy the erotic potential of an all-pervasive illuminating gas symbolizing sexual energy, the grinding action of the mechanical rollers became associated in his mind with onanism, as revealed in a note in The Green Box: "The bachelor grinds his chocolate himself." The allusion to masturbation and bodily fluids through the metaphoric association of chocolate and semen links the sexualized landscape of Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood to the masturbatory symbolism of The Large Glass and its related studies, as well as to the shimmering landscape - backdrop of Étant donnés, in which the ragged outline of trees and the lake below are enveloped in a vaporous atmosphere that owes a profound debt to Duchamp's unexpected yet utterly convincing use of talcum powder to create the veil of mist rising over Basswood.
---- Hubachek learned of the existence of Étant donnés in 1969 through Anne d'Harnoncourt. In a poignant letter dated July 18, Hubachek congratulated d'Harnoncourt on the publication of the essay she co-authored with Walter Hopps for the Museum's Bulletin, before going on to write a fitting memorial to his late friend:
This deeply felt and insightful tribute speaks to Hubachek's long friendship with the artist, as well as his fondness and appreciation for Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood, with its ineffable mist of talcum powder and shadows of rubbed chocolate. An hour or so after Duchamp gave him the drawing, Hubachek built a birch frame to protect its delicate surface and unconventional materials, which could so easily be damaged and marred forever by being accidentally brushed against.
---- Hubachek lived with Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood for the next two decades, generously showing it to scholars and lending it to numerous exhibitions. In 1974 he agreed to donate the work to the Philadelphia Museum of Art following the successful conclusion of the Museum's Duchamp retrospective that year, the itinerary of which included the Art Institute of Chicago. D'Harnoncourt expressed her "delighted surprise" on learning about Hubachek's "very thoughtful and generous idea" of possibly giving the work to the Museum: Your lovely drawing of Moonlight on the Bay at Basswood has always struck me as one of the most charming works Duchamp ever did, as well as one which relates so closely to his last large tableau now installed in this Museum. If you do decide to part with it, I cannot tell you what pleasure it would give the Museum to receive it, or how perfectly it would add to the collection of Duchamp's work. I know its connection both with Duchamp and with the Minnesota landscape must make it very meaningful to you, and am deeply touched by your contemplating its leaving your possession.
---- As work on Étant donnés progressed in the 1950s, Duchamp began to build a three-dimensional diorama in which to situate his recumbent nude — with the assistance of his new bride, Teeny Duchamp. Known to her friends by her nickname, which referred to her low birth weight, Teeny (see fig. 2.27) began a relationship with Duchamp in the fall of 1951 following the collapse of her first marriage (to the French art dealer Pierre Matisse, son of the famous artist) and the end of Duchamp's affair with Maria Martins.
Part 1 ---- Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 75-87, pp. 121-123. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
 See Marcel Duchamp, letter to Maria Martins, May 31 , and letter to Maria Martins, June 6 .