Skip to main content

Main Building

Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)

1912
Marcel Duchamp, American (born France), 1887 - 1968
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....

Object Details
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.

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.


Main Building