Letters
Vol.1 / Issue 2

 

Duchamp and Dreier

John Angeline responds to
'Alfred Jarry and l'Accident of Duchamp'

 

Dear Tout-Fait,

Congratulations on an exciting and generally brilliant issue! As a co-editor of an online arts journal (PART, http://web.gsuc.cuny.edu/dsc/part.html) I am impressed with what you have done.

One quibble the Anastasi article about the Large Glass, while intriguing, unfortunately falls into the same wrongheaded cliches about Katherine Dreier and her relationship to Duchamp that the general literature has perpetuated for far too long. My doctoral dissertation on Dreier tries to present a more even-handed version of their relationship and it is a shame that an otherwise adventurous article would rely on as flippant a source as Tomkin's biography and simply repeat its glib assertions.

Moreover, the correspondence between Dreier and Duchamp does reveal that the Glass was indeed accidentally broken, unbeknownst to both Duchamp and Dreier, while in storage/transit. Duchamp was in Europe at the time and in fact had to travel to the States expressly to repair the Glass.

The relationship to Jarry still intrigues. I just think it is time that art historians remembered to not sacrifice fact in the make of a theory.

Best Regards,

Dr. John Angeline
The Graduate Center at City University of New York

 

William Anastasi responds:

I was pleased to learn that Katherine Dreier has been the subject of a doctoral dissertation. If there is evidence showing that the Tomkins and Marquis accounts of her relationship with Duchamp are off base, adjustments would be welcome. Dr. Angeline states that "correspondence between Dreier and Duchamp does reveal that the Large Glass was indeed accidentally broken, unbeknownst to both Duchamp and Dreier..." This is the explanation given by Duchamp to J.J. Sweeney and Pierre Cabanne. But Duchamp's marvelous all-weather disclaimers proclaim that Each word I tell you is stupid and false and All in all I'm a pseudo, that's my characteristic. He was begging posterity to question everything about him, and particularly his statements. I have not succeeded in reaching Dr. Angeline to learn of his sources, but if he is citing letters from the artist, these disclaimers may apply. In any case, (and especially in view of these famous remarks) letters cannot reveal that the Large Glass was accidentally broken, they can only say so.

Marcel Duchamp was clearly creating his own myth. A telling attestation of this can be found in the opening paragraph of William A. Camfield's Marcel Duchamp: Fountain (Houston: The Menil Collection, 1989). Before embarking on a 180-page dissertation about this enormously influential work from 1917, Mr. Camfield cautions, "We do not even know with absolute certainty that Duchamp was the artist he himself once attributed it to a female friend..." For all we can tell, Duchamp may have been in collaboration with female friends even at this early date.

William Anastasi
New York, NY


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