Jean Crotti (1878-1958)
Beyond Boundaries: Avant-Garde Masterworks from a European Collection
Jean Crotti (1878-1958)

Les forces mécaniques de l'amour en mouvement

Jean Crotti (1878-1958)
Les forces mécaniques de l'amour en mouvement
signed, titled and dated 'J. Crotti LES FORCES MECANIQUES DE L'AMOUR EN MOUVEMENT 1916.' (lower right)
oil on glass, wood, newsprint, tin, paper, wire and metal tubing assemblage
23 ¾ x 29 ¼ in. (60.2 x 74.3 cm.)
Executed in New York, 1916
Estate of the artist.
Galerie Tarica, Paris (acquired from the above, circa 1970).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, circa 1970.
N. Greeley-Smith, "Cubist Depicts Love in Brass and Glass; 'More Art in Rubbers than in Pretty Girl!'" in The Evening World, 4 April 1916, p. 3 (illustrated).
"'Moderns' in a Club Show" in American Art News, vol. XVI, no. 12, 29 December 1917, p. 3.
F. Vanderpyl, "Aujourd'hui vernissage du Salon de la Société des Artistes indépendants" in Le Petit Parisien, no. 15.675, 28 January 1920, p. 2.
F. Fénéon, G. Janneau and P. Forthuny, eds., "Au Salon des Indépendants" in Le bulletin de la vie artistique, vol. 1, no. 5, 1 February 1920, p. 127 (incorrectly attributed to Picabia and titled Les forces mécaniques de l'Amour).
F.L., "L'angle nouveau" in L'Homme libre: journal quotidien du matin, no. 1724, 11 April 1921, p. 3.
S. Ratel, "Suzanne Duchamp et Jean Crotti apôtres de la 'peinture pure'" in Comoedia, no. 5009, 16 September 1926, p. 1.
W. George, Jean Crotti et le démon de la connaissance, Paris, 1930 (illustrated).
W. George, Jean Crotti et la primauté du spirituel, Geneva, 1959, p. 54, no. 21 (illustrated; with inverted dimensions).
W.A. Camfield, Francis Picabia: His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, pp. 108-109, 136 and 287 (illustrated, fig. 149).
F.M. Naumann, New York Dada: 1915-1923, New York, 1994, pp. 101-102 (illustrated in color, p. 101; illustrated again in a reproduction of The Evening World article).
R. Short, Dada and Surrealism, London, 1994, p. 9 (illustrated; titled Mechanical Twilight, dated 1920 and with incorrect medium and dimensions).
F.M. Naumann and B. Venn, Making Mischief: Dada Invades New York, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1996, pp. 230-235, 282 and 299 (illustrated, pp. 230 and 283).
N. Sawelson-Gorse, ed., Women in Dada: Essays on Sex, Gender, and Identity, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1998, pp. 85-86 and 91.
F.M. Naumann, Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray, New Brunswick, 2003, pp. 154-155 (illustrated, p. 155, fig. 158).
L. Dickerman, ed., DADA, exh. cat, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2005, pp. 283 and 423.
A. Pierre, "Dans la 'confrontation des valeurs modernes': Dada à Paris (1919-1924)" in Les Cahiers du Musée national d'art moderne, vol. 95, spring 2006, p. 19.
J.C. Bertoli, Jean Crotti: L'oeuvre peint, 1900-1958, catalogue raisonné, Milan, 2007, pp. 15, 33-35, 39 and 101, no. 16-08 (illustrated in color, pp. 33 and 101; illustrated again in a reproduction of The Evening World article, p. 308).
R. Hemus, Dada's Women, New Haven, 2009, p. 146.
New York, Montross Gallery, Pictures by Jean Crotti, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, April 1916.
Philadelphia, J.E. McClees Galleries, Philadelphia's First Exhibition of Advanced Modern Art, May-June 1916.
New York, Bourgeois Galleries, Modern Art: Arranged by a Group of European and American Artists in New York, February-March 1917, p. 5, no. 16.
New York, Cosmopolitan Club, December 1917.
Paris, Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, Salon des Indépendants, January-February 1920.
Paris, Galerie Montaigne, Exposition des oeuvres de Suzanne Duchamp et Jean Crotti: Tabu, April 1921, no. 18.
Paris, Galerie Jeanne Castel, Les oeuvres de Jean Crotti, October-November 1936, no. 6.
Paris, Musée Galliéra, Rétrospective: Jean Crotti, December 1959-January 1960, no. 106.
Fribourg, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Jean Crotti, May-June 1973, p. 20, no. 18 (illustrated; with incorrect cataloguing).
London, Hayward Gallery, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, January-March 1978, p. 44, no. 2.2 (illustrated).
Kunsthalle Bern; Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou; Houston Museum of Fine Arts and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tabu Dada: Jean Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp, 1915-1922, January 1983-January 1984, pp. 12, 14-15, 20, 29-30, 31, 33, 37, 47, 49-50, 55, 69, 75, 83, 89 and 129-130, no. 8 (illustrated, p. 96; illustrated again in a reproduction of The Evening World article, p. 31).

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Lot Essay

The Association Duchamp Villon Crotti has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work.

“Twice was I born,” Jean Crotti declared in a Dadaist curriculum vitae. “First, in 1878, from a father and mother, and the second time, in 1915, from means of self-procreation and self-delivery, without an umbilical cord” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1983, p. 82). His second birth was, of course, in his art, to which there was a witness, an exemplary figure who weaves in and out elsewhere among these art works beyond boundaries—Marcel Duchamp.
As a citizen of neutral Switzerland, Crotti was not subject to French conscription during the First World War, and with his wife Yvonne he left Paris in 1915 to visit his brother in Ohio. They stayed thereafter in New York, until September 1916. Duchamp and Picabia had taken up residence in Manhattan several months earlier. Crotti was probably already acquainted with both men, and in New York become a close friend. His earlier work in Paris drew on elements of Fauvism and Orphism. “But after only six months in America,” Francis Naumann has stated, “he could easily be ranked among the most noteworthy and original members of the French avant-garde” (op. cit., 1994, p. 101). The present Les forces mécaniques de l'amour en mouvement is a key work of this period.
Crotti accompanied Duchamp when the latter purchased the rectangular, curved-blade snow shovel, which he signed and inscribed “In Advance of a Broken Arm,” the second of the series of readymades he created during his wartime stay in New York—it is the first he designated with this term (Schwarz, no. 332). Both men admired the implement’s shape, not seen in France; an interviewer quoted Crotti’s pronouncement, “As an artist I consider that shovel the most beautiful object I have ever seen” (The Evening World, New York, 4 April 1916, p. 3).
The shovel, eventually lost, hung from the ceiling of Duchamp’s studio in the Lincoln Arcade Building at 1947 Broadway, which he invited Crotti to use during his stay. Crotti became fascinated with Duchamp’s meticulous and painstaking crafting of the forms in lead foil and wire for The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even), 1915-1923 (Schwarz, no. 404). Crotti embarked on a series of five assemblages created from various materials affixed to painted glass (Bertoli, nos. 16-08, 16-10, 16-12 through 16-14), of which the Les forces mécaniques de l'amour en mouvement has been the most widely exhibited. There is an extraordinary parallel between Duchamp's masterpiece The Bride Stripped Bare whose glass cracked while in transit from an exhibition in 1926 and Crotti’s Les forces mécaniques de l'amour en mouvement which also exhibits cracks in this case in the lower corner of the glass only. Both artists consciously chose to leave the glass in this fractured state feeling that it had become part of the work.
This mysterious, abstract composition became known to many New Yorkers in 1916, when a photograph of it appeared in the Evening World article on Crotti and Duchamp cited above. While not actually included in the “Cubist” exhibition mentioned, the so-called Four Musketeers group show—Crotti, Duchamp, Gleizes and Metzinger—at the Montross Gallery, Les forces mécaniques intrigued the interviewer, who visited the artist in the Lincoln Arcade studio. Placing a light behind the red disc Crotti explained that it represented “love.” The blue disc beneath it signified the “ideal”; the largest circle was “green for hope.” “Further to the right,” Crotti added, “I have indicated the extent to which love may carry human beings by suggesting an aeroplane...The brass indicates machinery, energy, power” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1983, p. 14).
Crotti painted an actual-size gouache study for Les forces mécaniques (Bertoli, no. 16-09), showing the work in reverse, to guide him in painting the final composition, which he needed to execute on the back of the glass plate. When seen from the front, the finished composition reads from left to right as Crotti intended it. His use of the metal forms and wire contours derives from Duchamp’s technique in creating the Large Glass. Regarding the idea of a light source behind the composition, William A. Camfield noted that Duchamp discussed “the ‘execution of the picture by means of luminous sources,’ and again the possibility is raised that Crotti provided a practical application for one of Duchamp’s precepts” (ibid., p. 14).
Crotti and his wife returned to Paris in September 1916. Their marriage was coming apart; they divorced in December 1917. Yvonne in New York joined Marcel Duchamp on his voyage to Buenos Aires in August 1918, but remained with him there only a short time before heading home to Paris. In April 1919, Crotti married Duchamp’s sister Suzanne. Together they formed in late 1921 their own insurgent offshoot of the Paris Dada movement, which they called Tabu Dada.

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