Marcel Duchamp, ‘Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)’, 1912, Philadelphia Museum of Art

On March 18, 1912, Marcel Duchamp received an unexpected visit from his two brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, at his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine. They informed their younger brother that the hanging committee of the Salon des Indépendants exhibition in Paris, which included themselves, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, and others, had rejected his Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. These Cubist painters had refused to display the painting on the grounds that "A nude never descends the stairs--a nude reclines." Although the work was shown in the Salon de la Section d'Or in October 1912, Duchamp never forgave his brothers and former colleagues for censoring his work.

The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

About Marcel Duchamp

Associated with the Dada, Surrealist, Cubist, and Futurist movements, Marcel Duchamp radically subverted conventional practices of artmaking and display, challenging such weighty notions as the hand of the artist and the sanctity of the art object. Duchamp’s depiction of dynamic Cubist forms in Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912) established him as a leading member of the international avant-garde. In 1913 Duchamp created Bicycle Wheel, which is considered the first of his famous readymades—minimally altered objects that are elevated to the status of art simply through the designation of the artist. Particularly in his readymades, Duchamp placed unprecedented emphasis on the artistic concept as paramount over craftsmanship or aesthetics, a guiding principle that has proved hugely influential to 20th-century artistic practice.

French, 1887-1968, Blainville-Crevon Seine-Maritime, France