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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

For Posterity: "L'art pour l'art"

"Millions of artists create; only a few thousands are discussed or accepted by the spectator and many less again are consecrated by posterity."

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp's Infamous Painting
Long ago when "Nude Descending a Staircase" was exhibited publicly, the piece left observers aghast. Duchamp's painting faced censorship and ridicule, yet today the painting hangs in Philadelphia's Museum of Art. It has effected our culture vastly, even boldly walking into clever song lyrics. An Indie song I sang along to as a teenager "a nude descends/the staircase once again" (Me and My 424/John Vanderslice). Theodore Roosevelt is quoted with an official stance on the painting (via Wikipedia):

"Take the picture which for some reason is called 'A Naked Man Going Down Stairs'. There is in my bathroom a really good Navajo rug which, on any proper interpretation of the Cubist theory, is a far more satisfactory and decorative picture. {..} and from the standpoint of decorative value, of sincerity, and of artistic merit, the Navajo rug is infinitely ahead of the picture."

Duchamp distilled a figure to motion, to shapes and when pressed to answer why he claimed the newfangled motion pictures influenced his decision to paint the nude, citing the famous footage of a horse galloping and a naked woman descending a stair. I must admit, as a teenager, when I was first exposed to Marcel's work my first reaction was akin to Teddy's, and I will still say that in the current Indiana climate I would value the Navajo rug more, at least for wool's sake alone. His painting does not strike the eye as beautiful, and Duchamp's works were never meant to be. Duchamp notably pushed the boundaries of what defined or constituted art. He wanted people to be stirred into thought, even if it meant provoking them with the sights he constructed. Duchamp saw more value in provoking thought than in eliciting simple pleasures derived from the enjoyment of what was considered "merely" beautiful.

Maria Popova quotes Duchamp on Brain Pickings:

"All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists."

The paintings of Antonius Raemaekers do not hang in Philadelphia or New York or the Hague museums, as far as I know. My Old Opa, Antonius Raemaekers, was influenced by the Cubists, Picasso, Duchamp and he in turn influenced many students. Opa's paintings hung in our homes. So while I was young the distillation of people, movement (and especially birds) into shapes was not strange or new. Even so Duchamp & Dada were delightfully shocking to me at sixteen. Cubism and other modern works which infuriated past generations now hang proudly in permanent exhibits around the world.

Old Opa's paintings do hang proudly in private collections and on display publicly in Martinsville, Indiana, where he lived for many years. You can visit a few of them at the Morgan County Public Library.

Times do change and with them does art, also definitions.

I consecrate to posterity the art of my Old Opa.

Ja, ja kijk hier:

Abstract Painting by Antonius Raemaekers via ArtFact.com

You will forgive me if I find Opa's paintings more pleasing and just as thought provoking (if not more so). It's a fair bias. Besides, now that I'm older, I prefer art to be less jarring. See his version of Descending a Stair. It is a beauty of motion, shape and air, although perhaps that is only my sentiment.

Antonius Raemaeker's: Descending the Stair


the Local Gal

Read More:

Morgan County Library Blog
Brain Pickings: The Creative Act
Jenness Cortez, Artist, (former Raemaekers Student)

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