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MARCEL DUCHAMP Artist's Works Profile and Analysis on the Nude in Art Proposed by Duchamp and Cocteau

Author(s): Erika González-Ehrlich

Journal: School of Doctoral Studies Journal
ISSN 1918-8722

Volume: 3;
Start page: 166;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Marcel Duchamp | Dada Art | Contemporary Art | Nude in Art | Jean Cocteau

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) was one of four siblings who became artists in the period of intellectual and artistic ferment that saw out the last decades of the old century and extended beyond World War I. Duchamp's early interest was in painting and Cubism and much of his most influential work was related to Dada practice. But Duchamp was ultimately the most independent of artists--eventually becoming independent of art itself. Much of his influence derived from gestures or positions related to the nature of art, and a great deal of his fame rests on works consisting of ordinary objects altered or 'readymade.' But Duchamp's masterpiece is usually held to be the glass, metal, and paint construction entitled The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-23), frequently known simply as Large Glass. On the other hand the influence of Marcel Duchamp and Jean Cocteau on the use of the nude as a subject in art falls outside the usual categories of influence. Duchamp's singular experience with his Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) was instrumental in his decision to turn from any conventional type of art career and become the twentieth-century archetype of the anti-artist. Even though the popular 'scandal' surrounding the painting was of a type that would have launched a more typical artistic career, and his intentions with regard to the Nude were somewhat conventional, Duchamp's subsequent path was devoted to the exposure of art's ways and means. The nude, however, was one subject whose dimensions fascinated him and at the end of his career he created the disturbing multimedia work Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas (1946-66) which, in some senses, was a definitive response to the tradition of the nude in art. Cocteau, from another perspective, generated little scandal with his frankly homoerotic nudes--largely in a style derived from Picasso's classicizing period--because they were, for the most part, available only to a very limited audience. Cocteau was primarily a writer and filmmaker and his drawings constituted only a very small portion of his artistic output. But his style of drawing was very popular and in the work that was more widely available his nudes of both sexes frequently possess a frank, playfully erotic charge. Neither of these artists created a great number of nudes but the work they did contributed, in very different ways, to the rethinking of the nude as subject.

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