Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain Essay

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Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain by Sarah Shea HUMN406-01 Professor Nelson

Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain People often ask what constitutes good art. Who decides whether or not a piece is art and whether it is good art or not? Marcel Duchamp challenged popular notions of his day about what art actually is. Duchamp, a French artist living in New York at the turn of the century, believed that it was up to the artist to determine what art is. Duchamp is most famous for a type of sculpture he created called “readymades”1. Readymades are ordinary functional household objects that have either been joined to other objects, or chosen to stand alone as sculpture. Examples of his readymades include a coat hanger nailed to the floor of his studio, a hat
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and this therefore makes it more appropriate. As always, with art, it’s all a matter of opinion. About two weeks after his resignation from the society, Duchamp had Alfred Steiglitz photograph Fountain. With the special attention he paid to the lighting of the urinal, Duchamp tried to equate his “art” with artwork of both the Virgin Mary, and Buddha. The shadows cast on the urinal gave the illusion of a veil on it, much like the Virgin would wear. Also, all three images have the same general outline shape.4

These photographs depict the similarities. This action wasn’t so much an effort on Duchamp’s part to explain his reasoning behind Fountain, or to prove that it was art. It was more of an opportunity to maybe take the “art” aspect of the object, and personify it to further create new levels to its artistic-ness. Marcel never felt the need to make people understand his motives. Because of who Marcel Duchamp was, and because his art seems to appear so meaningless that it must have some abstract meaning, there is vast amounts of speculation regarding the symbolism of Fountain. A very interesting set of ideas is that it is viewed as a highly sexual piece. 5 Because of its position, shape, and original


This information can be found in the book Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century 1990 Chapter ---- has more thoughts and information on this