Suzanne Duchamp, c1922. Photo: Man Ray.
October 20, 1889|
September 11, 1963 (aged 73)|
Suzanne Duchamp (1889–1963) was a French Dadaist painter.
Life and work
Suzanne Duchamp, the fourth of the Duchamp children, was nearest in age and temperament to her brother Marcel, and they remained close throughout their adult lives. In 1905 she began studying painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, becoming familiar with avant-garde art through a local modern painting organization and her brothers, three of whom were studying art in Paris. She married a local pharmacist in 1911 but was divorced after only two years.
Shortly after World War I broke out, Suzanne went to Paris, where she served as a nurse's aid, continuing in this position even after the end of the war. Marcel was in Paris until he left for New York in 1915, and he and Suzanne saw each other frequently, as can be ascertained by his sketches done in the hospital where she worked. However, no work by Suzanne survives from this period, indicating that she may have stopped painting for about two years, until 1916, when Jean Crotti, a painter and friend of Marcel's, returned to Paris, bearing news of Marcel and of the exciting art being made in New York. Suzanne's pictorial response to Crotti's descriptions was Un et une menacés [He and She Threatened], a picture that represents, as do many of Marcel's works at this moment, a machine allegory of the relationship between the sexes. Suzanne's interpretation of this new vocabulary included incorporating into the work actual machine parts such as a clock gear and a plumb bob.
Between 1916 and 1919, Suzanne developed her work further in two key paintings: Radiation de deux seuls eloignés [The Radiation of Two Solitary Beings Apart] and Multiplication brisée et rétablie [Broken and Restored Multiplication]. However, her most productive period of artistic activity began about 1919, when she and Crotti were married. As a wedding present, Marcel sent them instructions for Ready-made malheureux [Unhappy Readymade], which involved suspending a geometry textbook on the porch and letting the wind and rain gradually tear it apart.
In 1920 Suzanne showed several of her works at the Salon des indépendants, along with Francis Picabia and Crotti. In 1921 she and Crotti, who had maintained a certain distance from Dada events, mounted a two-person show of their work at the Galerie Montaigne. Suzanne's Ariette d'oubli de la chapelle étourdie [Arietta of Oblivion in the Thoughtless Chapel], which combines enigmatic painted symbols with a wooden silhouette of Crotti and a glass eye, typifies her particular combination of obscure symbolism and diagrammatic clarity. While the works at this show represented a survey of Suzanne's and Crotti's Dada work, the catalogue to the exhibition also featured a modified title, "TABU Dada," that pointed the way to a new stage in their production.
Crotti took the lead in moving away from Dada and toward a more spiritual investigation of cosmic forms. By 1922 Suzanne had begun making figurative paintings in a naive style resembling the work of Raoul Dufy or the Douanier Rousseau. Although in later years Crotti received more attention, Suzanne continued to exhibit her work, which appeared in 1956 in a one-woman show in Paris. She died in 1963. (Source)
- William A. Camfield, "Suzanne Duchamp and Dada in Paris", in Women in Dada: Essays on Sex, Gender, and Identity, ed. Naomi Sawelson-Gorse, MIT Press, 1998, pp 82-102. (English)
- Ruth Hemus, "Suzanne Duchamp", in Hemus, Dada's Women, Yale University Press, 2009, pp 129-164. (English)