Duchamp's Window Display for
André Breton's Le Surréalisme
et la Peinture

by Thomas Girst


Besides at least two other publications displayed in Brentano's shop window, a minimum of ten copies of Breton's Le Surréalisme et la Peinture (Fig.11) were either arranged alongside each other at the bottom of the window or were propped upright, showing off the book's color reproductions of Surrealist paintings (among many more black and white images) (5). First published in 1928 (by Gallimard, Paris), Les Edition Françaises Brentano produced a second, expanded edition of Le Surréalisme et la Peinture in 1945, while André Breton, Surrealism's founder, was in temporary exile in New York. The book now included his famous observations (pp. 107-124) on Duchamp's major work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915-23 (Fig.12), the essay having been initially published in Minotaure in 1934 (Paris, 2,  6, Winter 1935, pp. 45-49) for which Duchamp had designed the cover (Fig.13). Earlier in 1945 the essay, originally titled "Phare de la Mariée," had been published in English as "Lighthouse of the Bride," in the Marcel Duchamp number of Charles Henri Ford's magazine View (New York, 5, 1, March 1945, pp. 6-9, 13), for which Duchamp had also designed the cover (Fig.14).

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Figure 11
André Breton, Le Surréalisme et la Peinture (cover), 1945
Figure 12
Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (aka the Large Glass), 1915-1923
Figure 13
Marcel Duchamp, Cover design for Minotaure, 1934
Figure 14
Marcel Duchamp, Cover design for View magazine, 1945

It may not come as a surprise then, that Duchamp also had a hand in the design of Breton's new edition of Le Surréalisme et la Peinture. On July 2, 1945, after meeting with Brentano's publisher Robert Tenger, Duchamp mailed a letter to Elisa and André Breton in Reno, Nevada with suggestions for the cover: "Take the bare feet, Magritte's shoes. Instead of black, make a print in sanguine on pink paper (or just white). This bloodshot reproduction would be imprinted in the middle of the board and also imprinted your name, the title of the book […] and Brentano's below"(6). And sure enough, less than half a year later, it is René Magritte's Le Modèle Rouge (or Red Model) which appears on the cover of Breton's book (as well as inside the book, between pp. 104-105). The window display even presented a poster of the image (7).

Completed by mid-November 1935, The Red Model, now in the collection of the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, is the replica of an earlier version of the same name and year. In 1936, it was included in Magritte's first American solo show at Julien Levy's gallery (January 3 – January 20, 1936). And in 1947, it was sent by Alex Salkin – the painting's owner since the late 1930s – to the Hugo Gallery in New York, where, most importantly, it was bought by none other than Maria Martins, on the advice of Marcel Duchamp (8). At the time of Duchamp's design for Brentano's window display, Maria Martins, the Brazilian Surrealist sculptor and wife of the Brazilian ambassador to the United States, was already engaged in a full-fledged love affair with Duchamp.


"boots with toes painted by Donati"

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Figure 15
Figure 16
Enrico Donati, Boots for Brentano's Window Display, 1945
Marcel Duchamp, Door: 11 rue Larrey, 1927
Figure 17
Marcel Duchamp, Cover for Marcel Duchamp: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1963
Figure 18
Marcel Duchamp, Window Display for André Breton's Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, 1945

The boots to the right of the window did not get lost (Fig.15). In a crude way, they were meant to resemble Magritte's Red Model, being neither shoes nor feet, both shoe and foot. This sure must have appealed to a gender-hopping Duchamp, art's patron saint of the eternal and/or. There was, of course, his 1927 door in his tiny Parisian studio-apartment which could be both open and closed at the same time (Fig.16). There was his first major solo-exhibition in 1963, by or of Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy, his female alter ego (Fig.17); and a later exhibition, Not Seen and/or Less Seen of/by Marcel Duchamp/Rrose Sélavy 1904-64: The Mary Sisler Collection. It turns out that he was deeply involved with Donati's shoes as well. Besides the known photograph of the window display (9), there is another one from a different angle, reproduced in the French paper La Victoire (New York, no. 47, November 24, 1945) (Fig.18). Underneath the photograph, the following caption appears:

Window display by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton at Brentano's bookstore in New York, for "Surrealism and the Painting." "Magritte Shoes" by Enrico Donati, mask by Isabelle Waldberg, falling paper and studded feet by Marcel Duchamp.

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Figure 19
Francis Picabia, Cover for Littérature, 1922
Figure 20
Marcel Duchamp, Torture-Morte, 1959

After more than half a century, the quality of the reproduced photograph in the remaining copies of La Victoire is very poor. What can be made out better than from the other photograph are the soles of the feet next to Donati's, a work by Duchamp only mentioned in Victoire. They are a lot smaller and seem to be feminine in comparison to Donati's big shoes with protruding plaster toes. Duchamp's toes appear to be painted on their underside, as if to resemble painted toenails in reverse. They are studded not only at the heel (the heels of a shoe) but also in the center of both soles, with dozens of heads of nails sticking out, altogether arranged in a rectangular shape. While the ensemble with Donati's shoes might resemble Picabia's cover for Littérature (Paris, no. 7, December 1, 1922) (Fig.19), it certainly is also reminiscent of Duchamp's Torture-Morte of 1959 (Fig.20), Duchamp's enigmatic plaster foot (10). >>Next

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Footnote 5
Yves Tanguy,
En Lieu de Peur
, 1941


5. The copy to the lower right of the chicken wire torso appears to be opened to page 176, reproducing Yves Tanguy's En Lieu de Peur of 1941.





Jennifer Gough-Cooper and Jacques Caumont, "Ephemerides," n. pag. [2 July 1945].

The size of the poster in the display can be determined to be approximately that of the original painting (60 x 45 cm). If it were, in fact, the original and not a reproduction, Isabelle Waldberg would surely have mentioned it in the letter to her husband, although there is a possibility of it having been added later. At the time, however, the painting already was a rather valued work of art and it might not have seemed fit to include it in a window display. (It probably deserves mention that Magritte's shoes have made it into Frederic Jameson's influential Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham: Duke UP 1992 (1990), pp. 1-54. Within the essay, Jameson compares the depiction of shoes in the arts from van Gogh to Warhol, granting Magritte's shoes that they "take on the carnal reality" of humanism. Van Gogh's shoes, of course, have been pondered over before by philosophers Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida.)

David Sylvester (ed.), René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II (London: Menil Collection/Wilson, 1993), p. 207. According to Francis M. Naumann, Maria Martins and Marcel Duchamp were intimately involved throughout all of 1945, with their affair probably having begun as early as 1941 (telephone conversation, March 23, 2000).

9. In a fax of January 19, 2000, Arturo Schwarz claims that the anonymous photograph of the window display reproduced in Duchamp's Complete Works catalogue was given to him by Breton several years before his death in 1966 and was lost shortly after.

In this issue of Tout-Fait, note Raymond J. Herdegen's comparison between Duchamp's Torture-Morte and a woodcut of Jesus' studded feet found in an article by Alfred Jarry of July 1895.


Figs. 12-14, 16-18, 20
©2002 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris. All rights reserved.