Vol.1 / Issue 3


Why the Hatrack is and/or is not Readymade:
with Interactive Software, Animation,
and Videos for Readers to Explore

by Rhonda Roland Shearer with Gregory Alvarez, Robert Slawinski, Vittorio Marchi and text box by Stephen Jay Gould

* Please note this essay contains 8 videos,
10 animations and 3 interactive presentations.



Click here for Interactive Presentation
(Shown below at only 60% of actual size)
To download the plug-in, click here

Interactive Software Instructions

Please test out the interactive hatrack software that we have installed(6). To select a hatrack click on one of the 5 icons shown on the upper left. Hold the left side of the mouse down. Making sure the cursor's hand icon switches on (while the arrow is moving) roll the mouse on the hatrack's round base and "pull" the 3D model off its fixed position in the 2D representation. Interactive challenges include; the 1941 print of a studio photo (and an early stage of our hatrack 3D computer model), the 1917-18 studio photo (and an early stage of our hatrack 3D computer model), the 1964 Schwarz blueprint (with a computer model of the Schwarz 3D version), the 1964 Schwarz blueprint (with an early stage of our hatrack 3D computer model) and, a 1904 Thonet hatrack catalogue diagram (and equivalent 3D computer model)(7). To explore these 5 models, keep the left side of the mouse down, (always beginning with the hatrack's base) and roll the mouse in various directions, and compare the 3D shape of the hatrack to the 2D representation. Rotate each of the 5 hatrack 3D models in all x, y and z directions that are possible in 3D space (north, south, east, west, up and down). Try to visualize the 2D representation that you choose as a 2D slice (cut), or only one fixed perspective view of the 3D hatrack form. Also, practice placing the 3D models back into the best possible position matching the 2D depiction you have chosen.

The 5 computer models shown in the hatrack interactive design result from early stages of our geometric analysis of the 6 hatrack representations in combination with our research of available mass-produced hatrack models in the historical record (found in period catalogues, patents, museum collections and design books).

The 5 interactive hatracks are meant to offer spectators a shortcut and assistance in their efforts, not only to review my arguments but to allow them to experience, and to explore and build upon their own analysis to process, and later to generalize from the facts before us.

The order of occurrences and the quantity and choice of 5 interactive models above differs from the earlier illustrations #2A, B, C, D, E, and F that I originally sited as Duchamp's 6 hatracks cuts. For clarity, I will discuss each of the 5 interactive models separately starting with the 1904 Thonet catalogue image and 3D model.

What To Look For:

1. 1904 Thonet Hatrack - Interactive Model

After examining Duchamp's 6 hatrack representations, and after canvasing the historical record, I concluded that; A. Six different 3D hatracks were described by Duchamp's 6 representations (five 2D, one 3D); B. No duplicate, mass produced, readymade store-bought hatrack matched any of the five 2D representations or the one 3D Schwarz model. C. The closest possible mass-produced hatrack circa 1915 or before that I could find (after considering the varied deviations within the five 2D depictions and the one 3D model), was the common Thonet bentwood hatrack (a design still commonly found today in both metal and wood).

4 Hatracks from the
Art Science Research Laboratory (ASRL) Collection

click each image to see video
Illustration 7A.
Thonet Hatrack, circa 1904
Illustration 7B.
Metal Hatrack, circa late 19th, early 20th
Illustration 7C.
Bentwood Hatrack, circa late 19th, early 20th century
Illustration 7D.
Thonet Bentwood Hatrack, circa late 19th century

Click each image to enlarge
Illustration 8A
Frontispiece of "Thonet Bentwood & Other Furniture," illustrated catalogue, 1904
New York: Dover Publication, 1980
Illustration 8B
"Thonet Bentwood & Other Furniture," illustrated catalogue, 1904, p. 80
New York: Dover Publication, 1980
Illustration 9.
"Thonet Bentwood & Other Furniture," illustrated catalogue," 1904, p. 81
New York: Dover Publication, 1980
Illustration 10.
Wireframe of a computer generated Hatrack based upon 1917 studio photo

See illustrations and videos 7A, B, C, and D showing lab members hanging hats on four hatracks from the Art Science Research Lab collection. The first wood model below is the closest one that we have found that has characteristics common to all six of Duchamp's hatrack representations, and appears similar to Thonet bentwood style #11022. Thonet Brothers mass-manufactured and shipped their original Bentwood designs throughout the world. See illustration #8A, B showing the title page for the 1904 catalogue and the page for hatrack #11022. Try the Thonet 1904 interactive 3D model. Note how symmetrical the hatrack appears and how it matches the catalogue drawing.

The patented technology that allowed Thonet to permanently shape wood for furniture without carving (hence bentwood), became immediately recognizable by the "S" curve module units. Note too, that the illustration 7A Thonet hatrack has three "S" curves on a round base. The 7B and 7C Thonet-style hatracks, one in metal and the other in wood, also have 3 "S" hooks. Click to see videos of each hatrack in the ASRL collection. The illustration 7D video shows the official Thonet paper label on the back. As you can see from all 4 videos, each of the hatracks are wall units, and each can easily hang hats. Both Thonet catalogue pages illustrations #9 and 8B show examples of the common bentwood hatrack/coatrack free-standing models still in use today.

2. 1917 Hatrack (2nd Interactive hatrack model from bottom)
This studio photograph was reproduced as a retouched print in the 1941 Boîte en Valise. Count the hooks. There are 2 long hooks and 3 short hooks. We took the 3D model of the Thonet hatrack with the 3 "S" hooks, compared it to this studio photograph print and noted the differences. If the first long hook and short hook are, together, one "S" hook of the Thonet model (with a total of three "S"s), then the second long curve and short curve could together be the second "S". But the second long hook (having a much more open and soft curved shape when compared with the first long hook's curve) cannot be the same shape as the first long hook.

Rotate the 1917 (above the Thonet 1904) interactive hatrack 3D model away from the 2D photo underneath and compare the differences. Note that the 3D model's second "S"'s long curve is not open and soft like the second "S"'s long curve in the photograph(8). Yet, the second "S"'s long curve in the 3D model approximately matches the first "S"s long curve in the photograph.

Moreover, the 2nd "S"'s bottom, small hook is a wider shape and less curved when compared with the first "S"'s bottom small hook. Finally, the third small hook is missing the top, long hook part of the "S". In order to represent Duchamp 1917 2D depiction in 3D, we had to cut off the long curve from the "S" hook and leave the bottom small hook curve in yet a different angle from the first and second "S"'s two bottom small hooks. See illustration #10 that shows a front view of this hatrack with its cut off long hook. Rotate the interactive 1917 3D model into the face forward position (like the Thonet 1904's position) and then go back to compare the Thonet 1904 3D model. Importantly, try to place this Thonet 1904 into similar positions as the first or second "S" hooks in the 1917 Duchamp 2D depiction. (The 3D Thonet model here is slightly squatter than Duchamp's 1917 hatrack.)

3. 1917 Hatrack (3rd Interactive hatrack model from the bottom)
This studio photograph immediately appeared to be a more promising match for both the Thonet 1904 model and the 1918 shadow in the Tu m' painting (see illustration 2A). However, all attempts to match a 3D model with three identical and symmetrical "S" curves to the depiction that Duchamp provides failed, as one can see by examining this 1917 Interactive 3D model. Again, return to the 1904 Thonet 3D model and try to place each of the model's three "S" hooks into similar positions as the 1917 hatrack "S" hooks found here. As observed in the previous 1917 photo (2nd hatrack from bottom), the Thonet 3D computer model has tighter curves and shorter hooks then in our actual wooden Thonet 3D model from the ASRL collection shown in #7A.


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