The Large Glass by Marcel Duchamp: Analysis & Related Works

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, examine The Large Glass created by the French artist Marcel Duchamp. Learn about the materials, main characteristics, and reproductions of this interesting piece. Also, discover the artworks that are referenced in it.

Marcel Duchamp

Modern art is often controversial, and the work of French artist Marcel Duchamp surely was. He was equally admired and criticized. Although he didn't produce many pieces, Duchamp is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

Marcel Duchamp in 1913
Marcel Duchamp

In 1898, Marcel Duchamp was born to a family of artists in Blainville-Crevon, a town in northern France. He frequented circles of avant-garde painters and started as one himself, creating pieces that gained him some recognition.

Duchamp became better known for the controversial ready-mades, ordinary objects that were edited or repositioned. The most famous is probably Fountain (1917), a urinal placed horizontally, which awakened controversies over what art is. The original was discarded but it became an icon of 20th-century art.

The original Fountain (1917)
Fountain

Since the 1920s, Duchamp devoted his life to chess. However, he continued to organize art exhibitions and advise art curators. For about 20 years, he also worked secretly on his last piece, revealed after his death. He died outside of Paris in 1968.

The Large Glass

The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, commonly known as the Large Glass, is an art piece by Marcel Duchamp. It was started in 1915 and presented in 1923, shortly after the artist pronounced it ''permanently unfinished.''

An accident happened after its first exhibition in 1927, resulting in some damage and the glass being broken. Several years later, Duchamp repaired it but decided to leave the cracks. The original piece has been exhibited in the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1954. Duchamp also authorized three replicas of the Large Glass: one for an exhibition in Stockholm, one for the Komaba Museum in Tokyo, and another one completed in 1966 by the British artist Richard Hamilton, who recreated the piece in its original form. This reproduction is located in the Tate Gallery in London.

The original Large Glass (1923) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The original Large Glass

Composition

To make the Large Glass, Duchamp used lead wire to define the outlines of the different figures. He used oil and varnish to provide them with color, all over two glass panels enclosed by an aluminum frame. Its total size is about 9 feet tall by 70 inches wide.

The piece is divided horizontally into two sections of similar size. According to the artist, the upper part is the Bride's Domain and the lower part the Bachelor's Machine. The bride's panel has two main compositions. On the left, a black and gray silhouette represents the bride and her clothes. The upper part features an organic shape with blurry outlines, supposedly a reference to the Milky Way.

The lower part contains the bachelors and several mechanical elements. The nine bachelors are reddish, elongated forms. They are located on the left and interconnected by thin lines. Below them, we find a box containing a windmill. In the center of the panel, there is a red and brown representation of a grinder with a mobile on top and a series of funnel-like figures forming an arch. These pieces give a sense of three-dimensionality. On the upper right, there are four circular arrays, allegedly representing visual witnesses.

Meaning

The bachelors are together with the machines (often associated with manhood at that time), trapped in an industrial setting that won't let them fulfill their erotic desire. The bride is left alone with the stars as if she was waiting for a lover to reach her. The strong division between the two panels evokes sexual frustration and represents the often complicated relationship between men and women.

We know from the artist that this piece is meant to exhibit the erotic tension between the bride and the bachelors. However, the Large Glass has been subject to decades of speculations and controversy, so there are many interpretations and opinions.

Replica of the Large Glass (1966) at the Tate Gallery in London
Replica of the Large Glass

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