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Artist: Raymond Duchamp-Villon (French, 1876 - 1918)

Date: 1911
Medium: Terra cotta mounted on board
Overall: 6 7/8 x 17 3/16 x 15/16in. (17.5 x 43.7 x 2.4cm)
Signed: Lower right: 'R. Duchamp Villon'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 63.93
Label Text
Raymond Duchamp-Villon gained renown during his lifetime for his experiments in architectural design. The unique terra cotta cast of Dancers is among the earliest of his relief sculptures made expressly for a modern architectural setting. It was a study for an unrealized, multi-figure panel that would have served as the central decoration above the entrance to Duchamp-Villon's lost architectural façade known as The Cubist House (1913). Ultimately Duchamp-Villon developed a radically simplified style of architectural ornamentation and the figurative panel was abandoned. Dancers nonetheless offers clues to Duchamp-Villon's creative methods as he searched for a new style of figurative sculpture appropriate to the Machine Age.

Dancing figures, a subject unique in Duchamp-Villon's oeuvre, allowed the sculptor to explore motion in a medium normally devoted to static representation. At the time, Duchamp-Villon was experimenting with time-lapse photography inspired by the photographic motion studies of Étienne-Jules Marey.

When the terra cotta cast of Dancers was exhibited along with the plaster façade of the Cubist House in 1913 at the Armory Show in New York, the relief attracted the interest of American painter Arthur B. Davies, who purchased the terra cotta cast and thereby became one of the first collectors of Duchamp-Villon's pioneering sculptural work.

Judith Zilczer

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