Artsy Insight: Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase
Had Marcel Duchamp been present at the 1913 Armory Show and had a chance to plead his case, perhaps the public would have given his infamous Nude Descending a Staircase a better reception. With contextual insight, they might have identified the allegedly absent figure with ease: Duchamp was inspired by motion studies, and his nude figure reflected the motion-blur of chronographs they were surely familiar with from the sequential exposures of both Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge (pictured respectively).
“In 1912... the idea of describing the movement of a nude coming downstairs while still retaining static visual means to do this, particularly interested me,” Duchamp later said. “The fact that I had seen chronophotographs of fencers in action and horse galloping (what we today call stroboscopic photography) gave me the idea for the Nude.”
Surely, he should have spoken sooner.