56f2f86b9a36c0a5629cccb8f38f2afdFotografia por Julien Wasser (Pasadena, 1963)

“Objectively, a game of chess looks very much like a pen-and-ink drawing, with the difference, however, that the chess player paints with black-and-white forms already prepared instead of inventing forms as does the artist. The design thus formed on the chessboard has apparently no visual aesthetic value and is more like a score for music which can be played again and again. Beauty in chess does not seem to be a visual experience as in painting. Beauty in chess is closer to beauty in poetry; the chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem… Actually, I believe that every chess player experiences a mixture of two aestethic pleasures: first the image akin to the poetic idea of writing, second the sensuous pleasure of the ideographic execution of that image of the chessboards… From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”

Marcel Duchamp


tumblr_ms5g2rks8z1qhgogbo1_1280Fotografia por Alexander Liberman (Nova Iorque, 1959)

“His competitive play in Hyères, Paris, The Hague, Marseilles, Nice, Hamburg, Prague, La Baule and Folkestone occasionally resulted in what were, to Duchamp, gratuitous victories. In 1930, he played to a draw with the American champion, Frank Marshall, and in 1932, he won the Paris chess competition. But Duchamp always insisted that winning was not the point. He wanted to get away from winning so that he could comprehend chess in the same way he had gotten away from painting, so that he would not fall into the trap of becoming an addict to the smell of turpentine. To be seduced by the act of art was tantamount to losing one’s ability to comment intelligently about it.”

Neil Baldwin in Man Ray: American Artist (Da Capo Press, 2000)


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Fotografia por Phillip Halsman (Connecticut, 1956)

“The rules of the game are fixed. The pieces arranged by file and by rank. Eight lines. Eight times eight squares solidly framed on a board and set on a table. The way each piece may be moved is approved by traditions already obscured in East before the game began to be played for a thousand years in the West. And yet, if everything, even more fixed, but sometimes or others starts moving, than why should the humble be patient forever? Never shake off his position, shake off his occupation, shake off his follows, shake the pieces, shake them for a new game. To bring and to play your own imagination, to transform into human beings the wooden knights and queens.”

in 8×8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements (Hans Richter, Jean Cocteau e Marcel Duchamp, 1957)


Fotografia por Philippe Halsman (Southbury, 1956)

Passionate Pastime (1956) is a 28 minute introduction to 8×8 (1957). The history of chess, narrated by Vincent Price; music by Douglas Townsend (on a theme by Milhaud) and Robert Abramson; sound editor: Richter. The story of chess from the pre-chess days (2500 b.C.) til the present, utilizing various carved chess figures as manifold as the various peoples that have played the game, from the most primitive to the most sophisticated, reflecting the unending delight in the game. Narration written by Richter. With Marcel Duchamp and Larry Evans (former American chess champion).”

Stendhal Gallery


Fotografia por Eliot Elisofon (Nova Iorque, 1952)

“André Breton once compared his abandonment of painting with Rimbaud’s break with poetry. Chess would be in these terms a sort of Harrar in New York, even more execrable than that of the poet. But Duchamp’s inactivity is of a different order from Rimbaud’s silence. The adolescent poet opposes a total negation to poetry and disowns his work; his silence is a wall and we don’t know what lies behind this refusal to speak: wisdom, desperation, or a psychic change that converted a great poet into a mediocre adventurer. Duchamp’s silence is open; he affirms that art is one of the highest forms of existence, on condition that the artist escapes a double trap – the illusion of the work of art and the temptation to wear the mask of the artist. Both of these petrify us; the first makes a prison of a passion, and the second a profession of freedom.”

Octavio Paz in Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare (Arcade Publishing, 1990)


1945 (VIEW)Frederick Kiesler . Poème d’Espace Triptych (1945)

“A game of chess is a visual and plastic thing, and if it isn’t geometric in the static sense of the word, it is mechanical, since it moves; it’s a drawing, it’s a mechanical reality. The pieces aren’t pretty in themselves, any more than is the form of the game, but what is pretty – if the word pretty can be used – is the movement. Well, it is mechanical, the way, for example, a Calder is mechanical. In chess there are some extremely beautiful things in the domain of movement, but not in the visual domain. It’s the imagining of the movement or of the gesture that makes the beauty, in this case. It’s completely in one’s grey matter.”

Marcel Duchamp


levy-chess-tournament-1Fotografia por Julien Levy / Montagem por Dorothea Tanning (Nova Iorque, 1944/45)

“The standard chess sets now in use, the FRENCH Set and the STAUNTON, are both somewhat confusing in the similarity and intricacy of their forms. In the French Set for example, the Bishop is a little Queen and the pawn a little Bishop. Cannot a new set be designed, that is, without a too radical departure from the traditional figures, at once more harmonious and more agreeable to the touch and to the sight, and above all, more adequate to the role the figure has to play in the struggle? Thus, at any moment of the drama its optical aspect would represent (by the shape of the actors) a clear incisive image of its inner conflicts. In the complicated modern game the figures should inspire the player instead of confusing him. They should whisper to him at the right moment: Move now to QB4….Break through the center….Pin the Knight….Let me win a piece….We can exchange Queens, the pawn will be metamorphosed into a new Queen….to mate the King.

they should never make a

On Designing Chessmen, texto inserido na brochura da exposição The Imagery of Chess, realizada na Julien Levy Gallery  (Nova Iorque) entre 12 de Dezembro de 1944 e 31 de Janeiro de 1945.