Marcel Duchamp’s Mona Lisa altered and titled L.H.O.O.Q. done 1919, in France. Piece can be found here.
I decided to do my analysis on a visual piece of art created out of the Dada Movement. This particular work of art is by artist Marcel Duchamp, done in the year 1919 in France. This particular piece is called L.H.O.O.Q., or in French “el ache o o qu.” This title is actually a pun on the French language, because when it is said in French it forms the sentence “Elle a chaud au cul” which is roughly translated as, “She has a hot ass.” (Wikipedia). I chose this work of art because its relation with WWI is extremely apparent, and this piece of art is non-traditional in so many ways.
First, a little background on Marcel Duchamp. He was born July 28th, 1887 in Blainville-Crevon, France. Duchamp was a French-American artist that strongly influenced the arts post WWI. His beginning works started out post-impressionist, but as time moved on he began to be a strong force for the Dada Movement. Duchamp was also one of the beginning artists to use “Readymades,” which are objects found and possibly modified to be presented as art. This Mona Lisa modification is an example of that, taking a pre-made work of art and adding alterations.
L.H.O.O.Q. was a work of art that was part of the Dada Movement in Europe, a movement towards non-traditional arts in reaction to WWI (About.com). This particular work was considered shock art, due to its mildly obscene title and comical modifications. Nobody in the past would think to alter Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, particularly in the manner Duchamp did. He drew a curled mustache and a go-tee on the woman’s head, and gave it a raunchy title. Many coined this technique gender reversal, which Duchamp enjoyed doing. L.H.O.O.Q. falls under this category of shock art because it does just this to an audience trained to appreciate traditional works of art, it shocks them.
Continuing on with the notion that WWI was the instigator of the Dada Movement, many blamed that WWI was a result of tradition. Dada Movement supporters argued that if tradition caused WWI, tradition had to be broken to ensure something such as WWI wouldn’t occur again. Again, the consequences of WWI were to create arts breaking tradition.
Another interesting side note to show Duchamp’s apparent desire to flow against the grain was his female pseudonym, named Rrlse Selavy. Translated, this name means, “Eros, that’s life.” (Wikipedia). Duchamp obviously carried a comical lifestyle in the subject of visual arts, with a sarcastic undertone as well.
This work of art has almost a laughable affect on its viewers (I’m sure it didn’t have that same affect during its production period towards viewers), but it definitely stirred up the visual arts world after WWI. That is one of the reasons why I appreciate it so much. I used to do comical alterations to images in textbooks back in the 1st or 2nd grade, knowing it was not right having a history book with a picture of Napoleon holding a pitchfork and wearing Viking horns on his head. I’m glad somebody was doing this way before me, and for a more important reason: being a key player in The Dada Movement.