The Lovers

Raymond Duchamp-Villon (Pierre-Maurice-Raymond Duchamp), French, 1876 - 1918

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
1913

Medium:
Plaster

Dimensions:
27 x 39 5/8 x 5 1/4 inches (68.6 x 100.6 x 13.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Modern and Contemporary Art

Object Location:

* Skylit Atrium, Perelman Building, first floor

Accession Number:
1978-15-8

Credit Line:
Gift of the family of the artist, 1978

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cubist [x]   intercourse [x]   intertwined [x]   relief sculpture [x]   two figures [x]  


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Label:
The Lovers is a dramatic exploration of Cubist principles in the arena of sculpture. Taking an erotic subject that is both timeless and universal, Duchamp-Villon transforms the pair of lovers into an abstract composition that subordinates detail to sweeping rhythms and harmony. This plaster relief is the artist's fifth and final version of this image, which was subsequently cast in bronze.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    The Lovers is a dramatic exploration of Cubist principles in the arena of sculpture. Its volumes and rhythms contain echoes of the Western tradition carried from antiquity to nineteenth-century artists such as Auguste Rodin, and the erotic subject matter is both timeless and universal. But its starkly chiseled forms and deliberately awkward grace make the sculpture unmistakably modern. Duchamp-Villon transformed the pair of lovers into an abstract composition that subordinates the elaboration of details to a sense of balletic harmony.

    The artist's choice of a deep relief format reflects his embrace of Cubism as a program for a complete environment, leading beyond painting to sculpture and architecture. He wed the avant-garde notions of his artistic circle with the classical ideal of the integration of the arts into daily life. Duchamp-Villon was committed to the development of a practice of monumental public sculpture as well as the modernization of ornamental carving for architectural interiors and facades. Assumed to be the last of five plaster works on this theme, The Lovers relates to several medallion reliefs of birds and animals that Duchamp-Villon made specifically for architectural settings.

    When Duchamp-Villon died of typhoid fever in 1918 at the age of forty-two, the realization of his artistic ambitions had already been postponed by his years as a medical officer in World War I. However, he left a strong legacy as a pioneer of Cubist sculpture and theory, and a studio filled with plasters awaiting further development or casting in bronze. The family of Marcel Duchamp, the sculptor's younger brother and great admirer, ultimately donated many of these precious works in plaster to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a gift that makes the Museum a center for Duchamp-Villon's work in the United States. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 28.


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