Marcel Duchamp: Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)

On view April 5 – July 3, 2016
Gallery 225
Centennial Loan

Generous loan from the the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Among the most iconic works in the history of modern art, Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) was first rejected from the Cubist section of the 1912 Salon des Indépendants in Paris before it sparked even greater controversy when displayed at the 1913 Armory Show in New York. Presenting the time-honored subject of a nude as a mechanical object in motion rather than static and supine deeply offended conventional sensibilities, prompting perplexed Americans to interpret the painting as a condescending trick played on gullible foreigners. Critics lampooned the painting as “an explosion in a shingle factory” and “Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush Hour at the Subway).” Even former president Theodore Roosevelt criticized the painting, comparing it to the pattern on his bathroom rug. With its blend of Cubo-Futurist formal structures, mixed with proto-Dada humor, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) challenged both European and American artists in ways they had never experienced before. The painting will be displayed in the context of other works in the museum’s permanent collection by Duchamp, Man Ray, Max Ernst, and other Dada and Surrealist artists.

Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), 1912
Marcel Duchamp (French, 1887–1968)
Oil on canvas; 147 x 89.2 cm
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Estate of Marcel Duchamp

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