nude descending staircase

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (French: Nu descendant un escalier n° 2) is a 1912 painting by Marcel Duchamp.

In the composition, Duchamp depicted motion by successive superimposed images, similar to stroboscopic motion photography. The painting shows elements of both the Cubist and Futurist styles. Duchamp also recognized the influence of the stop-motion photography of Étienne-Jules Marey.

Duchamp first submitted the work to appear in a Cubist show at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, but jurist Albert Gleizes asked Duchamp's brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, to have him voluntarily withdraw the painting, or paint over the title that he had painted on the work and rename it something else.

Of the incident he recalled,

I said nothing to my brothers. But I went immediately to the show and took my painting home in a taxi. It was really a turning point in my life, I can assure you. I saw that I would not be very much interested in groups after that.

He submitted the painting to the 1913 Armory Show in New York City where Americans, accustomed to naturalistic art, were scandalized. Julian Street, an art critic for the New York Times wrote that the work resembled "an explosion in a shingle factory," and cartoonists satirized the piece. It spawned dozens of parodies in the years that followed.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 is on permanent exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


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