Allan Savage on Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia

For Marcel Duchamp, chess was almost everything. As his friend, the author Henri-Pierre Roché, noted: “He needed a good chess game like a baby needs his bottle.” It featured throughout his art career, from his early painting Portrait of Chess Players (1911) to Reunion, the performance/chess game he staged with John Cage in 1968 on an electronically prepared board. He loved its conceptual nature and its utter purposelessness, aspects that would have appealed to Man Ray and Francis Picabia. All three learned chess in their childhood and would share their passion for it throughout their lives.

Duchamp was taught chess by his brothers Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Jacques Villon in 1900 when he was thirteen. From 1910 there were regular Sunday games with the Puteaux group of Cubist artists – which included his brothers, and which Picabia joined a year later. When he moved to New York, Duchamp became a central figure in the late-night chess sessions at the Arensbergs’ regular salons. Here, his opponents included some strong players: the poet Alfred Kreymborg (a former chess pro), the psychiatrist Dr Ernest Southard and the art collector and critic Walter Arensberg.

Click here to read the full article by FM Allan Savage. Special thanks to Allan for pointing this story out to us. Allan is a FIDE Master as well as an ICCF International Master.

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