In February 1920, Francis Picabia wrote, “Suzanne Duchamp does more intelligent things than paint.”1 While her body of work ranged from abstraction to figuration, painting to drawing, and poetry to collage, over the course of her 50-plus year career she continued to probe the potential of painting.
Although Duchamp was raised in Rouen and lived in Paris for much of her life, she had a sustained interest in the United States. She was particularly close with the artist, collector, and curator Katherine Dreier, who included her in a number of American exhibitions in the 1920s and 1930s and to whom she wrote, while visiting New York in 1947, “I love America!”2
Duchamp’s engagement with avant-garde artistic circles on both sides of the Atlantic began during World War I and intensified in the years that followed. This ranged from her correspondence with her older brother Marcel Duchamp while he was based in New York to collaborations when many artists returned to Paris after the war, particularly Picabia and Jean Crotti, whom she would marry in 1919.
Working in dialogue with Dada artists on both sides of the Atlantic, Suzanne Duchamp explored the readymade through paintings that incorporate modern, machine-made materials and objects. She combined these unorthodox elements with poetic inscriptions and enigmatic titles to explore how the readymade, word-plays, and poetry could operate together.
In Solitude-Funnel (1921), one of the last works that Duchamp made in the context of Dada in Paris, she combined fields of pigment with cut-out circles of metallic foil in a composition that juxtaposes painted and collaged geometric forms with a puzzling inscription. The thin, black lines emanating from the black circle at the center resemble the funnel described in the title, or the spokes of a bicycle wheel.
Duchamp’s unusual approach to her materials can be seen in the broader group of artworks she made during her Dada period, which included Broken and Restored Multiplication (1918–19) and Accordion Masterpiece (1921). Bringing together readymade materials with geometric forms and painted phrases, Suzanne Duchamp pushed the boundaries of the medium by exploring the material possibilities of painting.
Talia Kwartler, independent scholar
Francis Picabia, “Carnet du Doctor Serner,” 391 (no. 11, Paris, February 1920): 4. Translated by Marc Lowenthal, I Am A Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, and Provocation (Cambridge, Mass., and London: The MIT Press, 2007), 181.
The research for this text was supported by a generous grant from The Modern Women's Fund.
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