Marcel Duchamp’s Bride
Marcel Duchamp first introduced the theme of the bride into his work in 1912, when he began preparing to create an artwork in glass, La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even). On his death in 1968 he turned out to have been working on a large installation that again features a bride. Yet in the many publications about Duchamp, little attention is paid to the issue of who the bride actually was, a question usually dismissed as too personal – even though the ‘même’ of the title can also be read as ‘m’aime’ (loves me).
Duchamp was a lifelong inspiration to K. Schippers, who had wide-ranging conversations in the 1970s with Man Ray, Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia, Nelly van Doesburg and others close to the artist. In his search for the bride Schippers discovered the many places where Duchamp lived or stayed, in Normandy, Paris, New York, Philadelphia, Spain, Munich and elsewhere.
There are also countless excursions into the life and work of friends and acquaintances, including Piet Mondriaan, Marianne Moore, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Schippers creates a dazzling picture of the world in which Duchamp moved, bringing him closer despite his preference for invisibility (‘the artist should go underground’). This seething image is made more powerful by the fact that Schippers lets go of chronology, so that the reader hurtles from Normandy in 1904 to New York’s 14th Street in 1954, then back to several addresses in Paris in the 1920s and ’30s – a thrilling experience.
Who, then, was the bride? Like a true master of suspense, Schippers reveals bit by bit the story of a dramatic love affair, arguing convincingly that it provided Duchamp with a lifelong theme. When reality refuses to comply, Schippers resorts to imagination, as in the moving final scene borrowed from René Clair’s film Les deux timides, where the two sweethearts, on the eve of permanent separation, race each other to the river. ‘They don’t know what will happen next. No one does at this point. Myself included.’
- An intriguing hybrid form, combining search, essay and love story, with occasional touches of fiction
- Even if you know nothing about Duchamp, you can still enjoy the story: a young man in his twenties who experiences a ruinous love affair that has a huge influence on his work