Jan. 1914, Rouen
Made by Duchamp while on a homeward bound train to Rouen in the half-darkness of dusk, this Readymade is essentially a cheap reproduction of a winter landscape with two drops of color added to it. Inscribed in the lower right corner with the words, "Pharmacie. Marcel Duchamp/ 1914," Pharmacy illustrates the imposition of authorship upon a piece by merely signing it.
Duchamp made three original copies of this commercial print in 1914. The artist once explained that these prints, sold in an art supply store, are signed by an unknown artist "of the worst kind" (Oliva 62). In this way, the act of signing these lowly artworks stands as the opposite of what Duchamp did five years later when he made his own alterations to a print by well-known master Leonardo da Vinci.
This Readymade's title clearly draws on the color additions Duchamp made to the piece. Traditionally identified as being red and green, they recall the bottles of colored water in old-time pharmacy windows. However, not all scholars Pharmacy agree on the colors of the two dots. Some say red and green while others claim they are red and yellow. In Apropos of Readymades, Duchamp notes them as being red and green. It may be a question of basic color identification, for certain shades of yellow and green can be rather similar in hue. Judovitz seems to have noticed this, and calls the one dot "yellow-green," perhaps in an effort to cover both bases (136).
|Original version? 1914|
This Readymade may have a more personal significance as well. Duchamp's sister Suzanne's first husband, Charles Desmares, was a pharmacist (Schwarz 597). Also, Duchamp made the Readymade while riding a train back to his hometown (to parents, Suzanne, and childhood memories). Thus Marquis approaches the piece as "a startling example of how Duchamp muffled his, perhaps unconscious, emotional storm, inside an emotionally neutral, and increasingly icy, aesthetic statement" (96). Duchamp told Andre Breton that the two dots were "two tiny figures, one red, the other green, walking toward each other in the distance" (Marquis 96). In keeping with this argument, these two figures could be representative of Duchamp and his sister Suzanne and their ambivalent incestuous strivings.
In a talk in 1961, Duchamp discussed the idea of the Readymade tube of paint, claiming that as a result of this fact, all art prints are in fact Readymade. Judovitz therefore questions whether Pharmacy is in fact a Readymade, or perhaps "just another painterly material sitting alongside paint tubes in the art supply store?" (136).
1) 1941, Paris
Made by Duchamp for Box in a Valise, 1941
Collotype reproduction, 22.4 x 16.1 cm
2) 1945, New York
Full-scale, hand-colored reproductions, 22 x 15.6 cm
100 numbered limited editions in View magazine Vol. No.1 (March 1945)
Lower left in pencil: M. Duchamp 45
Lower right, numbered 1/100 through 100/100
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