Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Last Call: Suzanne Duchamp Drawings at Francis Naumann Fine Art through March 6th

Suzanne Duchamp, Untitled (Red Flowers), ca. 1933
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 16 3/8 x 24 3/8 inches

Hark, Feministas and Feministos - We forgot to include Suzanne Duchamp in the women artists canon of modern art!   How did this happen?

I checked through Linda Nochlin and Anne Sutherland Harris' catalog for Women Artists, 1550-1950 (LA County Museum, 1976); Wendy Slatkin's Women Artists in History: From Antiquity to the Present (most recent edition 2000); Nancy Heller's Women Artists: An Illustrated History (most recent edition 2000) and  Whitney Chadwick's Women, Art and Society (most recent edition 2012). Only Gill Perry in her Women Artists and the Parisian Avant-Garde : Modernism and "Feminine" Art, from 1900 to the 1920s (1996) lists Suzanne Duchamp among other Cubist women artists, but adds in a footnote; "Although Suzanne Duchamp was associated with the Section d'Or exhibition [1912], she went on to work with the Dada group, hence her exclusion from the group of 'femmes peintres" featured in this book." (p. 80).  Hmmm - not "femme" enough, eh?   Well, I disagree.  Based on the current mini-retrospective at Francis Naumann Fine Art, we see plenty of "feminine" delicacy in her still life and landscape drawings and paintings - rather School of Paris-esque following her eccentric Dada and Tabu Dada periods.  

Feminist art historians take note: we must redress this egregious omission.

Suzanne Duchamp, Self-Portrait, ca. 1920    
 ink on paper, 14 x 9 7/8 inches     

Man Ray, Suzanne Duchamp, 1920
Centre Pompidou, Man Ray Trust
   Artists Right Society (ARS)/ADAGP. Paris 2014

To that end, may I introduce to you: Suzanne Marie Germaine Duchamp (1889-1963) the fourth sibling among the very talented six Duchamp-Villon children.  She was born on October 20, 1889, the first daughter after three sons Jacques Villon [Guston Ducamp], 1875-1963; Raymond Duchamp-Villon, 1876-1918; and Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968,  and the oldest among the sisters, Suzanne, Marie Madeleine Yvonne,1895-1969, and Marie-Thérèse Magdeleine, 1898-1979 (the latter two were not professional artists). 

Suzanne Duchamp, Untitled (Landscape with Cubist Tree), ca. 1945
Watercolor and pencil on paper 23 1/8 x 30 7/8 inches

Academically trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Rouen (beginning in 1905), Suzanne lived among the most avant-garde groups as a teenager.  Her much-older brothers Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon actively participated in the burgeoning Cubist movement.  The third, and much younger, brother Marcel Duchamp shocked New York with his famous Nude Descending Stairs (1912) in the legendary Armory Show of 1913, before he became part of the Dada movement. These familial connections brought her membership in thSociété  Normande de Peinture Moderne in Rouen.

Suzanne Duchamp, Untitled (Flowers), 1946
Crayon and ink on paper, 15 1/2 x 19 inches

In 1911 she married pharmacist Charles Victor Rene Demares in Rouen and divorced him in 1914. Suzanne moved to Paris and into her brother Marcel's flat on the rue de Condamine.  During World War I she worked as a nurse in the Hôtel des Invalides (while Marcel was in New York). Through the Dada network, she met Jean Crotti (1878-1958), a Swiss Dada artist, in 1916 and married him in 1919.  The two artists created their own movement, Tabu (based on the word "tabou") Dada, which expressed a life-giving force with mystery and spirituality - contrasting with Dada's nihilism.  Its first exhibition took place in April 1921, at Galerie Montaigne in Paris 

Suzanne Duchamp, Untitled (Interior au Gueridon), 1948
Watercolor and ink on paper, 24 1/2 x 19 1/4 inches

In the 1930s through the late 1950s, Suzanne embraced the popular charm of the School of Paris, concentrating on landscapes and still lifes radiant with color.  In his memoirs, Souvenir sans finAndré Salmon mentioned that she was very ill and could drink only pure milk, which Jean Crotti purchased in a specific dairy in Neuilly. Perhaps this period restricted her production, requiring only modest undertakings as an artist.

In 1958, Jean Crotti passed away and shortly afterward Suzanne turned to abstraction, expressing an energy and innovation that lasted to the very end of her life, September 11, 1963.  Her late work is a revelation.

Suzanne Duchamp Works on Paper seems to augur the return of spring.  These lively paintings and drawings will warm the cockles of your heart.   

Three more weeks of winter!
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director, New York Arts Exchange

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