Obelisk Art History
Themes in Art


In the early 20th century a posse of Dadaist artists dragged objects out of hardware stores and dusty closets, put them on pedistals and called them art. While typically attributed to Marcel Duchamp, the performance artist and wonderful weirdo Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven may have kicked off the idea by submitting a urinal signed ‘R. Mutt’ to an art show organized by Duchamp. First officially defined in André Breton and Paul Éluard’s Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, a readymade is “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” Readymades were intended to be a slap in the face to traditional ideas about what art is and how it’s valued, and it worked.

Reed Enger, "Readymade," in Obelisk Art History, Published August 03, 2017; last modified August 03, 2017, http://arthistoryproject.com/subjects/readymade/.

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"God", Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven


Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, 1917
Bicycle Wheel, Marcel Duchamp

Bicycle Wheel

Marcel Duchamp, 1913
Bottle Rack, Marcel Duchamp

Bottle Rack

Marcel Duchamp, 1914
Enduring Ornament, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Enduring Ornament

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, 1913
In Advance of the Broken Arm, Marcel Duchamp

In Advance of the Broken Arm

Marcel Duchamp, 1915
L.H.O.O.Q., Marcel Duchamp


Marcel Duchamp, 1919
Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics), Marcel Duchamp

Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics)

Marcel Duchamp, 1925
Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?, Marcel Duchamp

Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?

Marcel Duchamp, 1921
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