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Raymond Duchamp-Villon

/Works and biography

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The Horse (Le Cheval), 1914 (cast ca. 1930)
Bronze, 43.6 x 41 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 25


Raymond Duchamp-Villon began work on the plaster original of The Horse, a composite image of an animal and machine, in 1914, finishing it on leaves from military duty in the fall. It was preceded by numerous sketches and by several other versions initiated in 1913. The original conception did not include the machine and was relatively naturalistic. Duchamp-Villon then developed an increasingly dynamic, smooth-surfaced, and geometric synthesis of horse and machine. This version is highly abstract and parts of the horse’s physiognomy are replaced by machine elements. Duchamp-Villon closely observed the dynamics of the movement of horses during his experience in the cavalry; he also studied the subject in the late nineteenth-century photographic experiments of Eadward Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey. With a handful of other sculptors, such as Alexander Archipenko, Umberto Boccioni, and Constantin Brancusi, Duchamp-Villon overturned conventional representation of form to suggest instead its inner forces. He associated these forces with the energy of the machine. The fusion of the horse, traditional symbol of power, and the machine that was replacing it reflects the emerging awareness of the new technological age.

credits: Hangar Design Group