Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Details
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Chessboard (Echiquier)
signed on a paper label attached at a later date (1967-1972) to the support (lower left); stamped with signature and address 'MARCEL DUCHAMP 11 RUE LARREY PARIS (5e) France' (on the reverse)
sixty-four wooden squares nailed into and glued on plywood
27½ x 27½ in. (70 x 70 cm.)
executed in Paris, 1937; unique
Provenance
Isabelle Waldberg, Paris (acquired from the artist).
Robert Lebel, Paris (acquired from the above and until 1972).
Cordier & Ekstrom Inc., New York (acquired from the above).
Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York (by 1973); sale, Christie's, New York, 16 May 1985, lot 406.
Fischer Fine Art Ltd., London (acquired at the above sale).
Ronny van de Velde, Antwerp (by 1991).
Galerie 1900-2000, Paris.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above).
Private collection, Paris (1999); sale, Christie's, London, 6 February 2006, lot 122.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.
Literature
"Marcel Duchamp Number" in View, ser. 5, no. 1, March 1945.
R. Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1967, p. 198, no. 218.
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, vol. I, p. 741, no. 453 (illustrated).
Etant donné Marcel Duchamp, no. 7, 2006, pp. 37 and 39 (illustrated in situ in the studio of the artist at 11, rue Larrey, Paris, pp. 38 and 243).
Exhibited
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Der Surrealismus, 1922-1942, March-May 1972, p. 56, no. 137 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, Le Surréalisme, 1922-1942, May-September 1972, p. 65, no. 132 (illustrated).
Philadelphia Museum of Art; New York, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Marcel Duchamp, September 1973-April 1974, p. 32, no. 186.
New York, Gallery Yves Arman; Paris, Galerie Beaubourg and Geneva, Galerie Bonnier, Marcel Duchamp Plays and Wins, March 1984-April 1985, pp. 113 and 190, no. XXI (illustrated, p. 113).
Antwerp, Ronny van de Velde, Marcel Duchamp, September-December 1991, no. 94 (illustrated in situ in the studio of the artist at 11, rue Larrey, Paris on the cover).
Majorca, Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, Amb l'adjuda dels meus amics, December 1992.
Canberra, Australian National Gallery; Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery and Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Surrealism, March-September 1993.
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, DADA: l'arte della negazione, April-June 1994, p. 327, no. VIII/25 (illustrated).
Schwerin, Staatliches Museum, Marcel Duchamp Respirateur, August- November 1995, p. 71 (illustrated).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das ewige Auge: Von Rembrandt bis Picasso, Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, July-October 2007, p. 428, no. 206 (illustrated in color, p. 429).
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Surrealism in Paris, October 2011-January 2012, p. 283 (illustrated in color, p. 53; illustrated again in situ in the studio of the artist at 11, rue Larrey, Paris, p. 52).
Sale room notice
Please note this work is signed on a paper label attached at a later date (1967-1972) to the support (lower left).

Please note the amended provenance:
Isabelle Waldberg, Paris (acquired from the artist).
Robert Lebel, Paris (acquired from the above and until 1972).
Cordier & Ekstrom Inc., New York (acquired from the above).
Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York (by 1973); sale, Christie's, New York, 16 May 1985, lot 406.
Fischer Fine Art Ltd., London (acquired at the above sale).
Ronny van de Velde, Antwerp (by 1991).
Galerie 1900-2000, Paris.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above).
Private collection, Paris (1999); sale, Christie's, London, 6 February 2006, lot 122.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.


Please note the additional literature references:
"Marcel Duchamp Number" in View, ser. 5, no. 1, March 1945.
Etant donné Marcel Duchamp, no. 7, 2006, pp. 37 and 39 (illustrated in situ in the studio of the artist at 11, rue Larrey, Paris, pp. 38 and 243).

Lot Essay

Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp have confirmed the authenticity of this work.

In the early 1920s, a rumor quickly circulated throughout the American and European art world that the celebrated French painter, Marcel Duchamp--who was best known for the controversy that had surrounded the showing of his Nude Descending a Staircase at the Armory Show in 1913--had quit making art in order to play chess. Whereas the account was within the artistic communities of New York and Paris, it is true that he made a conscious decision to stop painting, and that he increasingly devoted more and more of his time to playing the game of chess. Indeed, in the early 1920s, after having abandoned the most ambitious work he had attempted to that point in his career--The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, which he had worked on intermittently in New York from 1915 through 1923--Duchamp returned to Europe and seems to have seriously contemplated the possibility of becoming a professional chess player. Over the course of the next twenty years, he engaged in regular tournament play and, for a brief period, was considered one of the strongest players on the French national team.

Both pursuits--painting and chess playing--were activities taught to him by his older brothers, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Jacques Villon. In 1910, he painted The Chess Game (Philadelphia Museum of Art; Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection), a large canvas in bright Fauve colors depicting his brothers intently engaged in a game of chess, their wives relaxing in the lush garden setting of their home and studio in Puteaux. A year later, when Duchamp began his first experiments with Cubism, he again turned to chess as his subject, executing a series of drawings and two paintings entitled Portrait of Chess Players, images that, again, depict his brothers intently engaged in a game of chess. But in this series, Duchamp was not content to blindly follow the dictates of a predetermined cubist style. "I wanted to invent or find my own way," he recalled years later, "instead of being the plain interpreter of a theory." His solution was to fuse the subject of his earlier painting of his brothers playing chess with the movements and action of the chess game itself, thereby rendering physical the product of an essentially cerebral activity (the opposite approach of most cubist painters, who generally departed from the visual analysis of a purely concrete form).

Throughout his life, Duchamp was committed to challenging the authority of an old French saying, "Bête comme un peintre" ("Stupid like a painter"), which presumed that painting was a totally mindless activity. "I was interested in ideas," he said of his paintings of the cubist period. "I wanted to put painting once again at the service of the mind." Duchamp accomplished this (and more) when he introduced the concept of the readymade, where commonplace everyday objects were elevated to the status of art by virtue of having been selected and signed by the artist. As is well known today, Duchamp chose an assortment of artifacts to serve as his first readymades--bicycle wheels, bottle racks, a snow shovel, etc.--but with chess and art forming such an important part of his everyday activities, it was inevitable that he would one day consider a chessboard as a candidate for inclusion within this same special class of objects.

Wherever Duchamp lived, a chessboard was always close at hand. In 1937, he hung a blank wood chessboard onto the wall of his studio, which, according to Robert Lebel (Duchamp's biographer and the first historian to compile a catalogue raisonné of the artist's work), Duchamp used to facilitate the playing of 'mental chess games.' It is perhaps no mere coincidence that the square format of the board defined a position on the wall that--at least in most artists' studios--would have been occupied by a painting. A photograph taken in 1967 shows Duchamp in his Neuilly studio, standing next to his Chessboard (the present work), which hangs prominently on the wall and is--considering the fact that he was still famous for having quit painting--a tell-tale visual metaphor for the career he so completely and effectively abandoned almost exactly a half century earlier.


Marcel Duchamp pictured with Echiquier hanging on the wall of his Neuilly studio. Photograph by Joly and Chardot, 1967. BARCODE: 28856627

(fig. 1) Marcel Duchamp, Portrait de joueurs d'échecs, December 1991. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Louise and Walter Arensberg. BARCODE: ART302754_dhr

More from A Dialogue Through Art: Works from the Jan Krugier Collection Evening Sale

View All
View All