Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Duchamp revisited by the New Yorker

In today's online New Yorker: this cartoon about "Nude Descending a Staircase." If the toon is really new or quite recent, I'm amazed that the painting still has enough iconic value to talk to people (I can't find its date). Maybe Duchamp's first famous creation has become a natural subject for parody. Like my favorites "American Gothic," Botticelli's Venus, Whistler's Mother, "The Scream," and of course Mona Lisa.

As I've mentioned, I've always been fascinated by the perceived strangeness of "Nude Descending a Staircase," ever since my mother described how astounding it was. At the time, I wrote how it seemed to be a touchstone of the unfamiliarity with modern art of  her generation:
"Working through this personal history with Marcel Duchamp, I begin to wonder if my mother herself knew what the picture looked like -- after all, she was familiar with Picassos and Cezannes. I suspect that she visualized it as much nuder than it was. She always thought that her own acceptance and public permissiveness of nudity in great art was mysterious, as she wouldn't have accepted nudity in any other venue. I now know that "Nude Descending a Staircase" earned its reputation at the Armory Show in 1913, when my mother was three years old, but in her view it seemed more contemporary than that. She reflected the slow pace at which it became somehow mainstream."
Has the strangeness persisted?


Vagabonde said...

I like this painting – it is all movement. My mother was also born in 1910 – I wrote several posts about her. She was very open to art as well.

Mae Travels said...

Thanks, Vagabonde. I suspect our mothers, despite their different countries and backgrounds, had a lot in common.