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Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)
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Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)

Marcel Duchamp, American (born France), 1887 - 1968

Made in France, Europe


Oil on canvas

57 7/8 × 35 1/8 inches (147 × 89.2 cm) Framed: 59 3/4 × 36 3/4 × 2 inches (151.8 × 93.3 × 5.1 cm)

© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Succession Marcel Duchamp

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 282, Modern and Contemporary Art, second floor (d’Harnoncourt Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) peels away the traditional beauty of the nude in art, its carnality, even its identifiable sex. Instead, the painting aims to expand our perception of the human body in motion, a topic of fascination for Duchamp around this time. Though the work exemplifies his extremely original engagement with Cubism, it also precipitated his break with the Cubists. When Duchamp presented it for exhibition in Paris in 1912, fellow Cubists on the hanging committee tried to exclude it. They may have objected to the idea of painting dynamic movement, or the unfamiliar subject of a nude on a flight of stairs, or the title written in block letters at the lower margin. When the work was finally presented at the Armory Show, which made the case for modern art to large audiences in New York in 1913, it met with a hostile public reaction—and cemented Duchamp’s reputation as an artistic provocateur.


Frederic C. Torrey, San Francisco, purchased from the artist at the Armory Show, New York, March 5, 1913 [1]. Acquired through Walter Pach by Louise Arensberg (1879-1953) and Walter C. Arensberg (1878-1954), Los Angeles, 1919 [2]; gift to PMA, 1950. 1. Milton Brown, The Story of the Armory Show, New York, 1988, p. 264. 2. The Arensbergs moved from their New York apartment to Los Angeles in 1921.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.