Raymond Duchamp-Villon


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(b Damville, Eure, 5 Nov. 1876; d Cannes, 7 Oct. 1918).

French sculptor, the brother of Marcel Duchamp and of Jacques Villon (he adopted the name Duchamp-Villon in about 1900). After illness forced him to abandon his medical studies at the University of Paris in 1898, he took up sculpture, at which he was self-taught. For the next dozen years or so he experimented with various styles until in about 1910 he became involved with Cubism. Several other Cubists used to meet in the studios of Duchamp-Villon and Villon and from these meetings the Section d'Or group emerged. In 1914 Duchamp-Villon enlisted in the army as an auxiliary doctor; he caught typhoid fever in 1916 and spent his last two years as an invalid before he died in a military hospital. His death cut short a career of great promise, for his major work, The Horse (1914), has been described by George Heard Hamilton (Painting and Sculpture in Europe: 1880–1940, 1967) as ‘the most powerful piece of sculpture produced by any strictly Cubist artist’ (there are casts in Tate Modern, London; MoMA, New York; and elsewhere). This ‘abstract diagram of the muscular tensions developed by a leaping horse’ (Hamilton) has often been compared with the work of the Futurists, particularly that of Boccioni, who met Duchamp-Villon in 1913. In the success with which it suggests taut energy it certainly achieves at least one of the things the Futurists were aiming at in their attempts to represent ‘the dynamics of movement’.

Subjects: Art.

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