Okay while I am not exactly an art major or crazy about art per se, I do love learning about the history of art. While in college studying art, I loved the stories of famous artist like Henri Matisse who felt that color should be used to express feelings, Henry Ossawa Tanner who painted the lives of ordinary people and Pablo Picasso who made lasting contributions to the art world. Most of all I love the story of that little house in Paris France owned by Gertrude and Leo Stein, where artists, musicians, collectors and critics would come to socialize and discuss art.
What fascinates me most about the history of art, are the artist that had the courage to create something different and start a whole new era of art. One of these artist is Marcel Duchamp, if you’ve never heard of him maybe you’ll recognize his piece that he entered in a 1917 art show. While I may not agree that this is art, I do agree with the point he tried to make. He wanted the viewer to see art in a new light.
Marcel Duchamp, born in 1887 in France, forced us look at art in a different light. He presented a painting in a 1913 art show in America called The Armory Show. Back then most art came from Europe and Americans rarely were able to contribute or experience art the way Europeans could. The Armory Show was created to bring exposure to American artist while bringing art from around the world to America. Marcel Duchamp entered a painting he called Nude Descending a Staircase which stood out to critics at the art show and was ridiculed for being different at the time.
The media mocked his painting and called it “an explosion in a shingle factory.”
The negative comments about his painting spread so much that it was one of the most talked about paintings after the art show ended. The media attention, although negative at first got him noticed, he and his painting became famous. With this type of fame he decided to continue to shock the art community and went on to produce the all time show stopper readymade art he called “Fountain”. This readymade art was a manufactured urinal that he entered into an art exhibit as a prank to taunt his peers in 1917 (Understandingchamp.com, 2008).
Can you imagine this being displayed in an art gallery, especially back in 1917?
Marcel made art that no other would have had the courage to display. His controversial art changed the way we view art and what we consider to be art. He may not have had the start to fame that many dream of, but his courage to be different and change the laws of what we consider to be art was brilliant.
Today, when I hear of Marcel Duchamp or see some of his famous work, I smile, as I am reminded of how he had the courage to be different while facing rejection and ridicule and was still able to believe in himself and his work. Imagine how many others would be famous or recognized for their contributions to the world but instead felt forced to conform to the conventional ways of society.
“It is a matter of great indifference to me what criticism is presented in the papers and the magazines. I am simply working out my own ideas in my own way” Marcel Duchamp
In other words, don’t worry what others say just keep being you.
Kleiner, F. (2009). 13th edition Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History. Thompson Higher Education, Boston MA