Marcel Duchamp, “Fresh Widow” 1, (1920)


Marcel Duchamp, “Fresh Widow” 2, (1920)

The innocently ironic syntagma “fresh widow” includes contradiction and even controversy. It’s at least tactless to call a widow who just lost her husband a freshly widowed woman. The grief connected with a fact of finding oneself deprived of the spouse conventionally demands respect. But a widow is also a human being for whom the matter of living in spite of her grief can be not only important but ontologically prioritized.

The point here is the channels through which this prioritization of life over death is understood. Here we come to the necessity to “bifurcate” the intentionality of the widow of Duchamp’s “Fresh Widow” on two possibilities signified by the color with which the artist depicts the window of the woman who has lost her husband. Of course, the very interior of the widow’s suffering is black in both versions, but in “Fresh Widow”1 the color of the window-frame is pale blue, while in “Fresh Widow”2 the color is rather greenish. Why is Duchamp characterizing the variations of feelings behind his “fresh windows” by using different colors?

The widow behind the pale blue window is after the death of her husband is rather in a traditionally religious (piously mournful) mood. Her feelings are, as if, colored by the sky which is covered by the pale veil of her tears. But the widow behind the bright greenish colored window is rather in a pagan modality of feelings (if not to project into the greenish window frame any hints of moral judge-mentalism). Even “fresh widows” are entitled to dream about a future husbands (as soon as it’s only a patient dream, of course). Let’s not be excessively puritanical. Greenish dreams are springy – they’re about shining fresh leafs, trembling, if they are of the birch tree by the caressing spring wind.

Of course, in “Fresh Widow”1 the contrast between the blackness of the windows and the color of the window frames is not too drastic – more, it’s rather repercussion, a resonance between “dark” grief and pale-blue heavens. But in “Fresh Widow”2 blackness and freshly green color of the window frames are, indeed, in extreme controversy. In both works the outside neatness of the window (as if it is after the aromatic bath) contradicts to the darkness of the black color behind the glasses, which, as if, is hiding the inside of the house. Doesn’t, according to Duchamp, the neatness of the cleanliness/purity of the widow’s window contradict the very idea of the grief?

If so, we here, may be, are close to seeing what is behind Duchamp-the artist’s aggressively sarcastic style in general, in his another works. Can it be the artist’s tormenting grief as his reaction on the psychological condition of humankind and vicious modernization through technologization of people’s sensibility, when technology is just an instruments of the financial and power elite’s total domination over populations?