Marcel Duchamp's Notes for the Large Glass

Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-23
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris


An Exhibition Proposal
Francis M. Naumann
June 24, 1998

 

 

La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même [The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even] -- better known by its abbreviated title: The Large Glass -- is considered by many critics and historians to be the single most complex and provocative work of twentieth-century art.

Marcel Duchamp, The Box of 1914, 1913-14
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

From the time when this work was conceived in Paris (1912), through to the period of its construction in New York (1915 to 1923), Duchamp kept a series of elaborate and detailed notes referring to every facet of its iconography and production. Initially, he wanted these notes to be made available to viewers in the form of a catalogue attached to the Large Glass itself, a sort of literary guide that was to be consulted in order to follow the workings of its individual elements in a step-by-step fashion. This catalogue never materialized, but Duchamp eventually published his notes in two limited, facsimile editions: The Green Box (Paris, 1934) and A l'infinitif (New York, 1966). Both serve as important sources of information on the preparation and theoretical framework of the Large Glass. With Duchamp's approval and assistance, these notes were subsequently ordered and translated into English by a number of scholars. Finally, a group of notes that had not been incorporated in any of these earlier publications was discovered and published in 1980 by Duchamp's stepson, Paul Matisse (referred to here as Posthumously Published Notes).

Purpose:

Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Green Box), 1934
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

It is the purpose of this exhibition to make Duchamp's notes better known and understood, and to demonstrate the crucial role they played in the conception and design of the Large Glass. For this reason, it is necessary that the notes be displayed within a reasonable physical proximity to the glass itself (or to one of the three reconstructions that were made of it), as well as to various related studies. It is equally important that the notes be understood to the general museum visitor, which will necessitate their transcription, translation (into English), and contextualization by means of accompanying, explanatory texts. All of this information will be conveyed to the spectator by means of individually-activated display monitors (see "The Exhibition" below).

Contributors:

It is recommended that this exhibition not be the sole responsibility of a single individual, but rather a team effort. Contributions by the following Duchamp scholars are suggested: Ecke Bonk, Niki Ekstrom, André Gervais, Cleve Grey, Richard Hamilton, Anne d'Harnoncourt, Linda Henderson, Ulf Linde, Paul Matisse, Herbert Molderings, Molly Nesbit, Hector Obalk, Michel Sanouillet, Arturo Schwarz, Jean Suquet, Michael Taylor, Hans de Wolff, etc. These same scholars will be invited to participate in the symposium (see "Symposium" below).

The Exhibition:

Marcel Duchamp, In the Infinitive (The White Box), 1967
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

In the exhibition itself, each original note shall be placed behind light-protective glass and hung vertically in a specially-designed display case on the wall. Directly in front of the notes appear a series of wooden bases (placed approximately 20-feet from one another), into which are installed color display monitors, each positioned at a 45% angle to the viewer. These monitors will be programmed to have on their screens reproductions of the very notes that hang on the wall near them. Instructions shall be provided to invite the viewer to touch the note on the screen that he or she wishes to examine in greater detail, whereupon the note "activates" (becomes highlighted). Once this step is taken, the viewer will be able to follow a simple procedure to: (1) turn the note over (if it has information on its verso); (2) transcribe the note from handwritten form to type; (3) automatically translate it into a variety of languages (by means of a sliding "codascope," invented and patented by Corbis Inc.). Sidebars will invite the viewer to press different categories if they wish to learn more about the note and how it relates to the Large Glass. Virtually all of the information used in these video displays will be incorporated into a CD-rom that will serve as the exhibition's only catalogue (see "Catalogue" below).

Catalogue:

Posthumously Published Notes,
Paul Matisse, ed., Cover for "Marcel Duchamp: Notes," 1980

Although Duchamp wanted his notes for the Large Glass to be made available to the general public, he did not attempt to impose an ordering system on them (in both The Green Box and A l'Infinitif, the notes are presented in an intentionally random sequence). To preserve this sensitivity, no paper or hardbound catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Instead, the notes will be presented in their entirety on a CD-rom disk, where each individual note will be transcribed and translated (into a variety of languages, depending on where the exhibition will be held). Modeled after the acclaimed Leonardo CD designed by Corbis Inc., which accompanied the travelling exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leister several years ago, each person who uses the Duchamp disk will be able to retreive individual notes in accordance with a variety of different subjects. But even more importantly, the notes will retain the integrity and identity of their original published form by being grouped (in the start-up menu) into the following four categories: (1) The Box of 1914; (2) The Green Box; (3) A l'Infinitif; (4) Posthumously Published Notes. From these divisions, viewers will be able to make selections from categories that Duchamp himself devised: the Bride (Top Inscription, Draft Pistons, Nine Shots, Cast Shadows), the Bachelors (Nine Malic Moulds, Capillary Tubes, Sieves, Toboggan, Oculist Witnesses, Boxing Match, Juggler of Gravity, Waterfall, Chocolate Grinder). They will also be able to select from a variety of related subjects (perspective and the Fourth Dimension, Colors, Indifference, Readymades, etc.). Deeper branches can also be established for those who wish to investigate Duchamp's sources more extensively, from the fields of science and technology (mechanics and engineering, electromagnetism and electricity, physics, chance operations, radioactivity and x-rays, etc.) to subjects drawn from the art and popular culture of the day (games, Cubism, politics, chess, clericism, dictionaries, sexuality, etc.).

Venues:

The ideal venues for an exhibition of this type would be the following three museums: (1) Philadelphia Museum of Art (who not only have the Large Glass, but also many drawings, sculptures and paintings that relate to its conception and design); (2) Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou (who recently acquired the majority of notes that were duplicated in the Green Box, as well as the posthumous Notes published by Paul Matisse; (3) the Museum of Modern Art, New York (who own all of the notes for the A l'Infinitif, as well as several works of related interest). A number of other museums might also be considered, such as the Tate Gallery, London (which owns Richard Hamilton's reconstruction of the Large Glass) and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm (which owns two reconstructions made by Ulf Linde).

Symposium:

An international symposium devoted to the subject of the notes will be organized in conjunction with the exhibition. Ideally, the symposium should be held in the location where the exhibition is scheduled to open. Various Duchamp scholars will be invited to present papers (see "Contributors" above), and these papers will be gathered for publication (but in no way should this publication be construed as the catalogue for the exhibition).

Checklist:

Essentially, the works selected for this exhibition will remain the same throughout the various venues, with the exception of those works on glass that are considered too fragile to consider subjecting to the potential perils of transport; in these cases, subsequent reconstructions will be used in their place (for the Large Glass, a request will be made to borrow the posthumous "traveling" reconstruction executed under the supervision of Ulf Linde in 1990-91, and for the Glissiére and 9 Moules Malic, the reconstructions executed by Richard Hamilton in the 1960s will be requested).

(1) The Large Glass (for Philadelphia, the original would be shown; for the Tate Gallery, the Hamilton reconstruction; for all other venues: the traveling reconstruction made by Ulf Linde in 1990-91).

(2) The Green Box notes, 1912-1918 (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).

(3) Posthumous Notes published by Paul Matisse in 1980 (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).

(4) A l'Infinitif notes (Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Mary Sisler).

Marcel Duchamp,
Coffee Mill
, 1911
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

(5) Moulin à café [Coffee Mill], 1911, painting (Tate Gallery, London).

(6) La Mariée mise à nu par les célibataires [The Bride Stripped Bare by the Bachelors], 1912, drawing (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).

(7) Vierge [Virgin], no. 1, July 1912, drawing (Philadelphia Museum of Art; A. E. Gallatin Collection).

(8) Vierge [Virgin], no. 2, July 1912, drawings (Philadelphia Museum of Art; Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(9) Le Passage de la Vierge à la Mariée [The Passage from Virgin to Bride], 1912, painting (Museum of Modern Art, New York).

(10) Mariée [Bride], 1912, painting (Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(11) Broyeuse de Chocolat [Chocolate Grinder] no. 1, 1913, painting (Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(12) Bachelor Apparatus: 1, Plan and 2. Elevation, 1913, drawing (The Philadelphia Museum of Art; gift of Alexina Duchamp).

(13) Bachelor Apparatus: Plan, 1913, drawing (The Philadelphia Museum of Art; gift of Alexina Duchamp).

(14) Bachelor Apparatus: Elevation, 1913, drawing (The Philadelphia Museum of Art; gift of Alexina Duchamp).

(15) La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même [The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even], 1913, drawing (Jacqueline Monnier, Villiers-sous-Grez).

(16) La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même [The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even], 1913, drawing and related notes given by Marcel Duchamp to Maria Martins in 1946 (Private Collection, New York).

(17) Pendu Femelle [Hanged Female Body], 1913, drawing (Collection Robert Shapazian, Los Angeles).

(18) Wasp, or Sex Cylinder, 1913, drawings (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).

(19) Combat de boxe [Boxing Match], 1913, pencil and crayon on paper mounted onto board with typescript notes (The Philadelphia Museum of Art; Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(20) Studies for the Bachelors, 1913 (Collection Joel Malin, New York).

(21) Perspective Drawing for the Water Mill Wheel, 1913 (Collection Joel Malin, New York).

(22) Cimetière des uniformes et livrées [Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries], no. 1, 1913, drawing (Philadelphia Museum of Art; gift of Louise and Walter Arensberg).

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913/51
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

(23) Bicycle Wheel, 1913; replica of 1950 (Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Harriet and Sidney Janis).

(24) Avoir l'apprenti dans le soleil [To Have the Apprentice in the Sun], 1914, drawing (Philadelphia Museum of Art; Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(25) Original notes used for the Box of 1914 (see next entry), 1913-14 (Philadelphia Museum of Art; Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(26) The Box of 1914, 1913-14, facsimiles of 16 manuscript notes and a drawing (Duchamp Estate, Villiers-sous-Grez).

(27) 3 Stoppages étalon [3 Standard Stoppages], 1913-14, assemblage (The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Katherine S. Dreier Bequest).

(28) Réseaux des stoppages [Network of Stoppages], 1914, painting (The Museum of Modern Art; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund and gift of Mrs. William Sisler).

(29) Cimetière des uniforms et livrées [Cemetery of Uniforms and Liveries], no. 2, 1914, drawing (Yale University Art Gallery; gift of Katherine S. Dreier).

(30) Study for the Chocolate Grinder's Leg, 1914, drawing (Collection Dina Vierny, Paris).

(31) Sieves and Detail of the Butterfly Pump, 1914, drawing (Collection Dina Vierny, Paris).

(32) Tamis [Sieves], 1914, drawing (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart).

(33) Piston de courant d'air [Draft Piston], 1914, photograph (Duchamp Estate, Villiers-sous-Grez).

(34) Piston de courant d'air [Draft Piston], 1914, photograph (Philadelphia Museum of Art; gift of Alexina Duchamp).

(35) Bottlerack (Bottle Dryer), 1914, readymade (Philadelphia Museum of Art; on extended loan from the Duchamp Estate?).

(36) Glissière contenant un moulin à eau en métaux voisins [Glider Containing a Water Mill in Neighboring Metals, 1913-15, oil and lead wire on glass (Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

Marcel Duchamp, 9 Malic Molds, 1914-15
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

(37) 9 Moules Malic [9 Malic Molds], 1914-15, oil and lead wire on glass (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris).

(38) A regarder (l'autre côté du verre) d'un oeil, de près, pendant presque une heure [To Be Looked at (from the Other Side of the Glass) with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour)], 1918, oil and lead wire construction on glass (Museum of Modern Art, New York; Katherine S. Dreier Bequest, 1953).

(39) Photograph of To Be Looked At (see previous entry), 1918, Buenos Aires (Yale University Art Gallery; Collection of the Société Anonyme).

(40) Témoins oculistes [Oculist Witnesses], 1920, pencil on reverse of carbon paper (Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(41) Elevage de poussière [Dust Breeding], 1920, vintage photograph (Jederman Collection, Princeton, New Jersey).

(42) La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même [The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even] or the Green Box, 1934, regular edition of notes in facsimile (Philadelphia Museum of Art; Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection).

(43) La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même [The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even] or the Green Box, 1934, deluxe edition of notes in facsimile (Private Collection; this is the box that contains no. 13 above).

Marcel Duchamp, Bedridden Mountains, 1959
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

(44) Cols alités [Bedridden Mountains], 1959, drawing (Jean-Jacques Lebel, Paris).

(45) Eau & Gaz à tous les étages [Water & Gas on Every Floor], 1958, readymade (Duchamp Estate, Villiers-sous-Grez).

(46) Sur Marcel Duchamp, 1959, deluxe edition of the book bearing on its cover an example of Eau & Gaz (see previous entry). (Collection Ronny van de Velde, Antwerp, Belgium).

(47) A l'infinitif [In the Infinitive] also known as The White Box, 1967, facsimile of notes (Niki Ekstrom, New York).

(48) The Large Glass and Related Works, 1967, nine etchings made after the Large Glass and details, including The Large Glass Completed (Ronny van de Velde, Antwerp, Belgium).

[Note: As noted above, The Green Box was produced in both regular and deluxe editions (see entries 42 and 43); for this exhibition, an attempt will be made to locate all 20 of the deluxe editions of this work and to identify the original note or drawing that Duchamp inserted into each (as in nos. 16, 17, 18, 30, 31); this will likely increase the number of works in the exhibition by some 8 to 10 additional items.]