Marcel Duchamp (28 July 1887 – 2 October 1968; French pronunciation: ) was a French/American artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Duchamp's output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art. He advised modern art collectors, such as Peggy Guggenheim and other prominent figures, thereby helping to shape the tastes of Western art during this period.
A playful man, Duchamp challenged conventional thought about artistic processes and art marketing, not so much by writing, but through subversive actions such as dubbing a urinal "art" and naming it Fountain. He produced relatively few artworks, while moving quickly through the avant-garde circles of his time.
The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.
Marcel Duchamp was born in Blainville-Crevon Seine-Maritime in the Haute-Normandie region of France, and grew up in a family that enjoyed cultural activities. The art of painter and engraver Emile Nicolle, his maternal grandfather, filled the house, and the family liked to play chess, read books, paint, and make music together.
Three Duchamp brothers, left to right: Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, and Raymond Duchamp-Villon in the garden of Jacques Villon's studio in Puteaux, France, 1914, (Smithsonian Institution collections.)Of Eugene and Lucie Duchamp's seven children, one died as an infant and four became successful artists. Marcel Duchamp was the brother of:
Jacques Villon (1875-1963), painter, printmaker
Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918), sculptor
Suzanne Duchamp-Crotti (1889-1963), painter.
As a child, with his two older brothers already away from home at school in Rouen, Duchamp was close to his sister Suzanne, who was a willing accomplice in games and activities conjured by his fertile imagination. At 10 years old, Duchamp followed in his brothers' footsteps when he left home and began schooling at the Lycée Corneille in Rouen. For the next 7 years, he was locked into an educational regime which focused on intellectual development. Though he was not an outstanding student, his best subject was mathematics and he won two mathematics prizes at the school. He also won a prize for drawing in 1903, and at his commencement in 1904 he won a coveted first prize, validating his recent decision to become an artist.
He learned academic drawing from a teacher who unsuccessfully attempted to protect his students from Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and other avant-garde influences. However, Duchamp's true artistic mentor was his brother Jacques Villon, whose fluid and incisive style he sought to imitate. At 14, his first serious art attempts were drawings and watercolors depicting his sister Suzanne in various poses and activities. That summer he also painted landscapes in an Impressionist style using oils.