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The Grand Old Lady of Modern Art. Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. By Isabelle Fleurit.
“The funniest thing is that for at least thirty or forty years the painting [Nude Descending a Staircase] was known, but I wasn’t. Nobody knew my name… I really lived over there [in the United States] without being bothered by the painting’s popularity, hiding behind it, obscured. I had been completely squashed by the ‘Nude.’… I was enchanted.”

- Marcel Duchamp to Pierre Cabanne, 1966

Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2—one of the best known and immediately recognizable paintings in the history of 20th century art—“is famous,” as the critic Robert Hughes astutely observed, “for being famous.” Indeed, when it went on display in the celebrated Armory Show of 1913, the painting was so severely attacked and ridiculed by the American press that the criticism itself overwhelmed any aesthetic merit that the painting might have had to offer. The painter—a twenty-six-year-old French artist then quietly living and working in Paris—would, for nearly the remaining years of his life, be inevitably linked to the notoriety of this painting, so much so that his own identify as its maker was subsumed by its fame, a picture that went on to experience a history that was, in part, independent of its maker.

That detailed history is told for the first time in this book by Isabelle Fleuriet, who approached her subject more in the spirit of a biographer—not the biography of a person, as is customarily the case, but that of a single painting—where her chosen subject functions much as would a celebrity, who travels around the world and who, whatever the destination, elicits great interest and attention. Fleuriet traces the story of this painting throughout Duchamp’s lifetime, demonstrating that even though he was overshadowed by its fame, he used the picture in varying ways to promote his own artistic identity.

Softcover, fully illustrated, 120 pages
$39.95 plus postage and applicable tax
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