Duchamp and the Dadaist Gender Offensive

Posted: 09/06/2021 by vequinox in Literature


On the 2nd of October 1968, artist Marcel Duchamp died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. His Rouen grave was engraved with the humorously defiant epitaph “Besides, it’s always the others who die!”. In death, as in life, he remained a master of sarcasm and controversy.

A puzzling development in his career occurred in 1920, when Duchamp started adopting a creative alter ego. At first, the Catholic artist was toying with the idea of assuming a Jewish identity, but found changing gender was possibly more fun. A year earlier, he had drawn a moustache and beard onto Mona Lisa’s picture from a postcard, marking a historic fascination in portraiture with androgyny and gender deception.

L.H.O.O.Q. (1919). Derivative work by the Dada... L.H.O.O.Q. (1919). Derivative work by the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp based on the Mona Lisa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within Dadaism – the trend that Duchamp adhered to – artists worked increasingly towards challenging deeply-rooted gender roles. For the first…

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