Harry Alonzo Longabaugh was born on April 19, 1868, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was born July 28, 1887, in Blainville, France.
Longabaugh (AKA the Sundance Kid) was the third son of Josiah and Annie Longabaugh.
Duchamp (who created for himself a feminine alter ego, Rrose Selavy) was the third son of Eugene and Lucie Duchamp.
Longabaugh joined the Phoenixville Literary Society in 1882.
Duchamp became a full member of the Paris Autumn Salon in 1910.
After a brief journey that took him to Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, the 14-year-old Longabaugh boarded a train headed west.
After obtaining his baccalaureate from the Bousset School in Rouen, Duchamp moved to Paris. Following a year of mandatory military service, he rejoined his bohemian circle in Paris.
In February 1889, Thomas Moonlight, governor of the Territory of Wyoming, pardoned Longabaugh, noting that the 20-year-old horse thief showed “an earnest desire to reform.”
In June 1921, Duchamp made a strong impression on Dada kingpin Andre Breton, who credited him with an “elegance of the most fatal sort.”
Longabaugh was one of several men who, in the mid-1890s, formed the “Wild Bunch” in Wyoming. Utah native Robert LeRoy Parker (AKA Butch Cassidy) also belonged to the outlaw band.
As a young man, Duchamp made the acquaintance of Francis Picabia, the enfant terrible of the Autumn Salon. Their handshake marked the beginning of a lasting association.
Longabaugh and the rest of the Wild Bunch saw themselves as libertarians with common enemies – the cattle kings, the railroads, and the banks.
Duchamp was interested only in intellectual adventure, in what an individual could accomplish with his or her mind.
From 1896 until 1901, the Wild Bunch operated successfully across a wide area of the American West. Longabaugh, Parker and the other leaders of the gang were intelligent men with an intimate knowledge of the land.
By 1913, Duchamp had acquired all the skills necessary to become a great painter. At the precise moment when he might have begun an artistically prosperous career, he took a job as a librarian. He decided he would not apply himself to painting as if it were a manual trade from which to derive money and fame.
The most famous robbery staged by the Wild Bunch took place near Tipton, Wyoming, in 1900. Four members of the gang, including Longabaugh and Parker, stopped the Union Pacific Flyer at gunpoint. A dynamite blast destroyed the train’s safe and baggage car. No one was injured. The robbery netted the outlaws $55,000.
Duchamp became a powerful force in the surrealist movement. After World War II began, he made his way across occupied France by pretending to be a cheese salesman. In Marseilles, he secured passage to the United States. He landed in New York City on June 25, 1942.
Longabaugh enjoyed being photographed. In 1901, at the height of the gang’s notoriety, Longabaugh, Parker, and three other members of the Wild Bunch posed for a group portrait in Fort Worth, Texas. It became an iconic image.
“When one looks at photographs of Duchamp taken at different times, alone or in a group, in his youth or in his old age, what strikes one is the quality of his smile. It is obvious that this is the feature that is his most salient characteristic, to an extent not true of any other contemporary personality … One realizes that here is a master of irony, whose face, thoughtful and silent, seems to be saying to his interlocutor: ‘Are you sure?’” – Sarane Alexandrian, Marcel Duchamp, 1977
Contrary to popular belief, Longabaugh and Parker were not gunned down by a cavalry unit in Bolivia. They returned to the United States after spending several years robbing banks and payrolls in South America. As proof, researchers cite several eyewitness accounts by associates and family members.
As Duchamp’s artistic output slowed, his existence took on a mythical quality. He became an influential absence, the living embodiment of his idea of art as concept. Duchamp believed all pictures were fakes. The originals were forever hidden in the mind. “It is the observers who make pictures,” he said.
Around 1919, Longabaugh adopted the alias Hiram BeBee. He drifted around the West for decades. In 1945, after an altercation in a tavern in Mount Pleasant, Utah, the 77-year-old BeBee shot and killed an off-duty town marshal.
In his later years, Duchamp lived an ascetic life, studying what he called the infra-slight – the extreme limit of the perceptible, such as the noise made by his ribbed velvet trousers when he walked.
After his death sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment, a defiant BeBee gave a prison interview to a reporter from the Mount Pleasant Pyramid. “I’d do the same thing if I had to live over,” he said. “Regrets are idle talk.” He then launched into a lengthy dissertation that referenced Socrates, Aristotle, Bacon and other philosophers. He died in prison in 1955.
On October 1, 1968, Duchamp spent his last evening dining with a group of friends that included the photographer Man Ray. He defended his conviction that what an artist did not do was just as important as what he did. Duchamp was buried next to his family in Rouen. He wrote his own epitaph: “Besides, it is always the others who die.”
John Hicks is probably taking pictures of cows.