Mary Reynolds and Marcel Duchamp, photographed by Man Ray, 1920s.
Mary Reynolds and Duchamp initially met in New York when both were living in Greenwich Village. They renewed their acquaintance in Paris in 1923, spending considerable time socializing at the Boeuf sur le Toit and other cafés while their involvement deepened. The relationship did not run smoothly, however, for Reynolds. Duchamp cherished his freedom and his unconventional, even shocking, life. He insisted that their relationship be kept secret. If they ran into each other in public, Reynolds was not to acknowledge him. Duchamp continued to see others and expected her to do the same (she did not). This created tremendous conflict for her that took its toll. Reynolds began to drink excessively. She finally confirmed in 1924 to writer and critic Henri-Pierre Roché, one of Duchamp’s most intimate friends, that Duchamp was, indeed, her lover, but lamented his lack of fidelity and continued attraction to “very common women” She suspected Duchamp was “incapable of loving” and unable to commit to one person. Some twenty years later, the wife of the sculptor Antoine Pevsner spoke of meeting Reynolds when Peggy Guggenheim brought her unexpectedly to dinner. “We were amazed,” recalled Virginia Pevsner, “to learn that Mary had been with Marcel Duchamp for nearly 20 years. During that time, Pevsner had seen Duchamp 2 or 3 times a week and Marcel had never said a word.” Beatrice Wood captured this part of Duchamp’s character most closely when she stated, “Everybody loves him. He belongs to everybody and to nobody.”