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Duchamp in Context:
Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works
Linda Dalrymple Henderson

Winner of the 1999 Robert Hamilton Author Award, University of Texas Cooperative Society

Paperback | 2005 | $72.50 | £60.95 | ISBN: 9780691123868
520 pp. | 8 1/2 x 11 | 5 color plates. 190 halftones.
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Between 1915 and 1923, Marcel Duchamp created one of the most mystifying art works of the early twentieth century: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (also known as the Large Glass). The work is over nine feet tall, and on its glass surface Duchamp used such unorthodox materials as lead wire, lead foil, mirror silver, and dust, in addition to more conventional oil paint and varnish. Duchamp's declared subject is the relation between the sexes, but his protagonists are biomechanical creatures: a "Bride" in the upper panel hovers over a "Bachelor Apparatus" in the panel below, stimulating the "Bachelors" with "love gasoline" for an "electrical stripping."

In preparation for the Large Glass, Duchamp wrote hundreds of notes, which he considered just as important as the work itself. He published 178 during his lifetime, but over 100 more notes relating to the Glass were discovered and published following his death. In this landmark book, Linda Henderson provides the first systematic study of the Large Glass in relation to the entire corpus of Duchamp's notes for the project. Since Duchamp declared his interest in creating a "Playful Physics," she focuses on the scientific and technological themes that pervade the notes and the imagery of the Large Glass. In doing so, Henderson provides an unprecedented history of science as popularly known at the turn of the century, centered on late Victorian physics. In addition to electromagnetic waves, including X-rays and the Hertzian waves of wireless telegraphy, the areas of science to which Duchamp responded so creatively ranged from chemistry and classical mechanics to thermodynamics, Brownian movement, radioactivity, and atomic theory. Restored to its context and amplified by the information in the posthumously published notes, the Large Glass appears far richer and more multifaceted and witty than had ever been suspected.

Henderson also includes a close examination of Duchamp's literary and artistic models for creative invention based on science, including Alfred Jarry, Raymond Roussel, Frantisek Kupka, and Guillaume Apollinaire. The book will not only redefine scholarship on Duchamp and the Large Glass, but will be a crucial resource for historians of literature, science, and modernism.


"A remarkable new study . . . . I greatly recommend Henderson's book as an exciting exploration of the borders between art and science, as they were traced at the dawn of Moderism by an elliptical genius."--Arthur C. Danto, The Nation


"Linda Henderson's work stands out as a truly original contribution. . . . She has enlarged and illuminated our understanding of the most intelligent, elusive, and influential artist of the twentieth century."--Calvin Tomkins, author of Duchamp: A Biography

"Henderson's book is the most thorough and dedicated analysis ever written about Duchamp's work. It represents the single most complete study of the Large Glass and its scientific sources-one that is unlikely to be surpassed."--Francis Naumann, author of Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

"In tracing the emergence of Duchamp's artworks from their actual cultural/scientific context, Henderson has produced what is quite simply an indispensable book."--Marjorie Perloff, author of Wittgenstein's Ladder and Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy

"Among the readers of Linda Henderson's brilliant book, historians of science will be especially rewarded by her thorough research into an area hitherto insufficiently explored-how artists and other laypersons during Duchamp's time came to learn of, and draw upon, the stream of exciting results of early twentieth century science."--Gerald Holton, Harvard University

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