11 April 2008

Quote of the day

Duchamp and Picabia first met in September 1911 at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, where they were both exhibiting. ... Picabia was thirty-two years old, eight years Duchamp's senior, and had already enjoyed critical and commercial success as an impressionist painter – although he was suspected of copying his images, supposedly painted in the open air, from picture postcards (he was to copy mass-produced illustrations at various points in his career) [many of these supposed plein air paintings were obviously far too large to've been painted anywhere but in the studio – as always, even at this early stage, he was taking the piss and mocking artistic pretensions – DC]. ...

The encounter with the more assured Picabia was a turning point in Duchamp's life. Independently wealthy in these years, Picabia could afford to turn his back on dealers and the market, and paint as he chose. The freedom of Picabia's lifestyle, his pleasure-seeking, irreverent and, at times, angry approach to the art world, and above all his utter refusal to toe a party line or be told what to do, opened Duchamp's eyes. In an interview towards the end of his life with the critic Pierre Cabanne, Duchamp stressed that he found Picabia's madcap lifestyle mesmerising and his spirit 'amazing':

CABANNE: I have the impression that Picabia made you understand that the people you knew, at Puteaux, were 'professional' painters, living that 'artistic life' which, at the time, you already didn't like, and which Picabia detested.
DUCHAMP: Probably. He had an entry into a world I knew nothing of. In 1911-12, he went to smoke opium almost every night. It was a rare thing, even then.
CABANNE: He revealed to you a new idea of the artist.
DUCHAMP: Of men in general, a social milieu I knew nothing about, being a notary's son! Even if I never smoked opium with him. I knew that he drank enormously too ... Obviously, it opened new horizons for me. And, because I was ready to welcome everything, I learned a lot from it.

Exactly what he learned, Duchamp never articulated [ha! – DC] ... Witness to their conversations [actually, an important participant in them – DC], Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia said strikingly that the two men 'emulated one another in their extraordinary adherence to paradoxical, destructive principles, in their blasphemies and inhumanities which were directed not only against the old myths of art, but against all the foundations of life in general'.

- Jennifer Mundy, 'The art of friendship' in Duchamp Man Ray Picabia

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