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This article is taken from PN Review 169, Volume 32 Number 5, May - June 2006.

Stevens, Duchamp, and the American 'ism', 1915-1919 David Haglund


After leaving Paris for New York during the First World War Marcel Duchamp declared, perhaps conveniently, that the true home of art had also recently moved across the Atlantic. 'If only America would realise that the art of Europe is finished - dead', he told a reporter for the New York Tribune in September 1915, just a few months after arriving in the States, 'and that America is the country of the art of the future.'1 Duchamp was already a minor celebrity in the US (hence the Tribune interview) thanks to his Nude Descending a Staircase, a large cubist painting that caused a popular sensation at the Armory Show of 1913. When he arrived in New York City he was met by Walter Pach, the Armory Show's principal European connection, who introduced him to Walter Arensberg, a wealthy American collector who had already purchased one version of the famous Nude and would later purchase the definitive version. Duchamp was soon living and working in Arensberg's spacious Upper West Side apartment.

On a Monday afternoon that August Arensberg telephoned his college friend Wallace Stevens and asked him to dinner with the artist and himself at the Brevoort Hotel in Greenwich Village. The Brevoort was a short ride from Stevens's apartment in Chelsea, and its very Gallic café, run by the French restaurateur Raymond Orteig, had become a popular meeting-place for the literary and artistic ...

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