Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 is a 1912 painting by Marcel Duchamp. The work is widely regarded as a Modernist classic and has become one of the most famous of its time. Before its first presentation at the Parisian 1912 Salon des Indépendants, it was rejected by the Cubists as too Futurist.
The painting was reproduced in Les Peintres Cubistes, Méditations Esthétiques by Guillaume Apollinaire, published in 1913. Nude Descending a Staircase is in the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Source [WikiPedia]
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- Duchamp’s Cubist contemporaries rejected the Cubist piece.
Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 reimagines the human form through a mechanized and monochromatic lens in keeping with Cubism, and in the century since its completion, it has repeatedly been displayed in Cubist art exhibits. However, Duchamp’s use of 20 different static positions created a sense of motion and visual violence that Cubists claimed made this piece more Futurist than a true example of their avant-garde art movement.
- Duchamp’s brothers tried to censor the piece.
The French artist had hoped to debut the painting in the Salon des Indépendants’s spring exhibition of Cubist works. However, the tantalizing title Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 was roundly rejected by the hanging committee, which included Duchamp’s brothers Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon. The pair visited the painter in his Neuilly-sur-Seine studio, where they entreated him to either withdraw the work, or change/paint over its title. The Salon committee agreed with Duchamp’s brothers, insisting, “A nude never descends the stairs—a nude reclines.”
- Its original title can be spotted on the canvas.
In the lower left hand corner, you’ll find “NU DESCENDANT UN ESCALIER,” painted in all caps. The name Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 came later.
- Timelapse photography was an inspiration.
Photographers were studying the motion of man and beast using this photographic technique, and art historians draw a direct connection between Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 and the photo series Woman Walking Downstairs, which can be found in Eadweard Muybridge’s 1887 book Animal Locomotion.
- Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 stole the spotlight from Cézanne’s and Gauguin’s works.
Artist Walt Kuhn had predicted the Armory Show would make waves by challenging Americans’s perception of art with the groundbreakers of the European scene. But no one predicted that out of 1400 pieces on display, Duchamp’s would be the most talked about. The scandal over Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 helped attract 87,000 visitors to the show.