Artist | Claude [Lucy Schwob] Cahun (1894 - 1954)

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    • Claude [Lucy Schwob] Cahun

      que me veux-tu (autorretrato)1928

Exhibition at IVAM

Exhibition at IVAM

CLAUDE CAHUN - Retrospective
November 8, 2001 - January 20 , 2002
Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia, Spain
Curator Juan Vicente Aliaga

The event has been curated by Juan Vicente Aliaga and provides a comprehensive overview of Cahun´s career, a woman ahead of her time, who created a formidable body of excellent work in photography and photo-montage.

The Claude Cahun retrospective exhibition feautures 59 photographies (self-portraits and still-lifes), all of them smaller works, ranging from the 1911 to 1933 period, along with 1 photomontage book.
It also shows graphic documentation from this misterious woman (3 magazines, two posters and 3 manuscripts).
The presented work covers her whole professional trajectory, from the beginning of her career until the end of her life, including self-portraits, portraits, photographic tableaux, still lifes, along with documentation about her life and oeuvre.
Drawn from public collections (Jersey Museum, to which Cahun donated much of her work and all her archives on her death, The Weighbridge, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Musée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) and private collections across the world, the exhibition includes works that have rarely, if ever, been publicly shown.

Claude Cahun (Nantes 1894-1954), born Lucy Schwob in a well-to-do family, was educated at Oxford and Paris –she studied Philosophy and Arts at the Sorbonne– and participated with Georges Bataille and André Breton in founding the left-wing group Contre-Attaque in 1935.
Throughout her lifetime she fostered confusion about her identity; her pseudonym, Claude, which in French can be applied both to men and women, was no more than an invitation to the provisional nature of her sexual identity. Not only did she dress up as a man or in outlandish or exotic costumes and wear her hair shorn, dyed pink or golden, but she was also wont to adopt affected, even effeminate poses.
Claude Cahun, who was also a writer –poems, literary criticism, essays, short stories– used the immediacy of photography to undermine the supposed objectivity of this medium, accentuating the performative, dynamic and shifting character of the poses she used to show off her elusive personality, in which male and female traits merged to create a undetermined literary personage in a deliberate, well-worked ambiguity. In other works she appears as a devil, an angel or a blind woman led by a feline. She also took many photographs in which she made compositions of unusual objects from innovative viewpoints. She made portraits of Robert Desnos, Jacqueline Breton, Henri Michaux and Sylvia Beach. She illustrated several books by Lise Deharme, Le cœur de pic (1937) among others.



The Claude Chaun retrospective exhibition at the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia, Spain is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue illustrating approximately 62 of Cahun´s most important works.
Published by the IVAM, the 172-page book includes scholarly essays by curator Juan Vicente Aliaga and writers Francois Lerperlier, Catherine Gonnard y Elisabeth Lebovici.
Tha catalogue also offers a selection of unpublished articles by Claude Cahun in English, French and Spanish, selected and presented by François Leperlier, Juan Vicente Aliaga, Catherine Gonnard and Elisabeth Lebovici.

Biography (english - deutsch)

Biography (english - deutsch)

Claude Cahun was born in Nantes on 25 October 1894 as Lucy Schwob. Her father was a wealthy Jewish newspaper publisher, her uncle was the symbolist author Marcel Schwob. At the age of 15 she fell in love with her stepsister Suzanne Malherbe to whom she referred as her "alter ego" and who was to be her lifelong companion. After studying at Oxford and at the Sorbonne, Cahun moved to Paris with her stepsister where she published essays and short stories in various magazines. From 1914 on, she focused her work on self-portraits in various masks, costumes and make-ups. In 1925 she met Henri Michaux, with whom she was united in friendship all her life, and began work on a series of "tableau-photographs" with surreal object arrangements.

In 1930 Paris publishers Carrefour published her autobiographical work "Aveux non avenus" with photomontages by her and Suzanne Malherbe, alias Marcel Moore. In 1932 she became a member of the communist "Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Révolutionaires" where she met André Breton and the surrealists. A year later she left the AEAR after the exclusion of the surrealists and in 1934 published her polemic treatise "Les Paris sont ouverts" in which she defends creative freedom against the cultural policy of the communists. In 1935/36 she participated in the actions and manifestos of the "Contre Attaque" group centered around Breton and Georges Bataille. In 1937 "Le Coeur de Pic" was published, a book with poems by Lise Deharmes and illustrations of Cahun's tableau photographs. The same year she and Suzanne Malherbe became active in the resistance movement and distributed pamphlets, posters and manifestos. In 1944 they were arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced to death. In 1945 they were pardoned but remained in prison until liberation in May 1945.

During this time a large majority of her artistic work was destroyed. Cahun continued to work on her self portraits and texts but never fully recovered physically and emotionally from her imprisonment. She died on 8 December 1954 in Jersey.
Suzanne Malherbe alias Marcel Moore (1892-1972) was a graphic designer and illustrator of books and magazines. Among others, she exhibited at the Salon d'Automne. After the death of Claude Cahun she moved to Beaumont in Jersey where she lived until her death.

Claude Cahun wurde am 25. Oktober 1894 als Lucy Schwob in Nantes geboren. Ihr Vater war der Herausgeber der Zeitung "Le Phare de la Loire", ihr Onkel der Schriftsteller Marcel Schwob. Ihr Großonkel Léon Cahun war ein bedeutender Orientalist und Autor. Mit 15 Jahren verliebte sie sich in ihre Stiefschwester Suzanne Malherbe, die sie ihr "anderes Ich" nannte und mit der sie ihr ganzes Leben zusammen blieb. Nach Studien in Oxford und an der Sorbonne zog Cahun mit ihrer Stiefschwester nach Paris, wo sie sich als Autorin etablierte. Seit 1914 beschäftigte sie sich mit fotografischen Selbstporträts in verschiedenen Masken, Kostümen, Make-ups. 1925 lernte sie Henri Michaux kennen, dem sie ihr Leben lang freundschaftlich verbunden blieb, und begann mit einer Serie von "Tableau-Fotografien" mit surrealen Arrangements von Objekten.

1930 erschien im Pariser Verlag Carrefour das autobiografische Buch "Aveux non avenus", mit Fotomontagen von ihr und Suzanne Malherbe alias Marcel Moore. 1932 trat sie der kommunistischen "Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires" bei, wo sie André Breton und den Kreis der Surrealisten kennenlernte. Ein Jahr später verließ sie nach dem Ausschluß der Surrealisten die AEAR und publizierte 1934 das polemische Traktat "Les Paris sont ouverts", in dem sie die kreative Freiheit gegen die Kulturpolitik der Kommunisten verteidigte. 1935/36 beteiligte sie sich an den Aktionen und Manifesten der "Contre Attaque"-Gruppe um Breton und Georges Bataille. 1937 erschien der Band "Le Coeur de Pic", mit Gedichten von Lise Deharmes und Illustrationen von Cahuns Tableau-Fotografien. Im selben Jahr übersiedelte sie mit Suzanne Malherbe nach La Rocquaise auf der Insel Jersey. 1940 besetzten die deutsche Armee Jersey. Cahun und Malherbe wurden in der Resistance aktiv und verteilten Flugzettel, Plakate und Manifeste. 1944 wurden sie von der Gestapo verhaftet und zum Tode verurteilt. 1945 wurden sie begnadigt, blieben jedoch bis zur Befreiung der Insel im Mai 1945 in Haft.

Während dieser Zeit wurde ein Großteil der künstlerischen Arbeiten zerstört. Cahun arbeitete weiterhin an ihren Selbstporträts und Texten, erholte sich jedoch physisch und psychisch nie vollständig von ihrem Gefängnisaufenthalt. Sie starb am 8. Dezember 1954 in Jersey.
Suzanne Malherbe alias Marcel Moore (1892-1972) war Grafikerin und Illustratorin von Büchern und Zeitschriften, die u.a. im Salon d'Automne ausstellte. Nach dem Tod von Claude Cahun zog sie nach Beaumont in Jersey, wo sie bis zu ihrem Tod lebte.

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Exhibition History 

Exhibition History

SUMMARY based on artist-info records. More details and Visualizing Art Networks on demand.
Venue types: Gallery / Museum / Non-Profit / Collector
Exhibitions in artist-info 43 (S 7/ G 36) Did show together with - Top 5 of 1030 artists
(no. of shows) - all shows - Top 100
Man Ray [Emmanuel Rudinski] (18)- 402
Hans Bellmer (12)- 119
Cindy Sherman (11)- 312
Marcel Duchamp (10)- 340
Exhibitions by type
43:   10 / 22 / 11 / 0
Venues by type
38:   7 / 20 / 11 / 0
Curators 26
artist-info records Jun 1995 - Jul 2017
Countries - Top 5 of 10
United States (10)
Germany (9)
United Kingdom (6)
France (5)
Austria (2)
Cities - Top 5 of 28
New York (6)
London (4)
Paris (4)
Boston (3)
Wien (2)
Venues (no. of shows ) Top 5 of 38
Whitechapel Gallery (3)
Galerie de France (2)
MIT List Visual Arts Center (2)
Neue Galerie Graz - Universalmuseum Joanneum (2)
The Fruitmarket Gallery (1)
Curators (no. of shows) Top 5 of 5
Peter Weibel(2), Birgit Eusterschulte(1), Jennifer Blessing(1), Michael Glasmeier(1), Sabine Folie(1)

Offers/Requests Exhibition Announcement S / G Solo/Group Exhibitions   (..) Exhibitions + Favorites
Exhibition Title

Kaye Donachie

 - Sous les nuages de ses paupières
FRAC - Île-de-France G May 2017 - Jul 2017 Paris (2) +0
Fondazione Nicola Trussardi G Aug 2015 - Nov 2015 Milano (21) +0
Exhibition Title

Claude Cahun

 - Photographies, dessins, écrits
Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes S Jul 2015 - Oct 2015 Nantes (7) +0
Exhibition Title

Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection

 - 1909–1949
MoMA (6/7) - The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949 G Dec 2014 - Apr 2015 New York (1) +0
Exhibition Title

Sie. Selbst. Nackt.

 - Paula Modersohn-Becker und andere Künstlerinnen im Selbstakt
Museen Böttcherstraße G Oct 2013 - Feb 2014 Bremen (13) +0
Tate Liverpool G May 2013 - Oct 2013 Liverpool (83) +0
Shpilman Institute for Photography G Apr 2013 - Jan 2014 Tel Aviv-Jaffa (3) +0
Galerie de France S Mar 2013 - Apr 2013 Paris (43) +0
Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz G Oct 2012 - Feb 2013 Linz (31) +0
Edlinger, Thomas (Curator)       +0
Exhibition Title

Avantgardens Kvinder 1920-1940

Louisiana Museum for moderne kunst G Feb 2012 - May 2012 Humlebæk (286) +0
K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen G Oct 2011 - Jan 2012 Düsseldorf (49) +0
The Fruitmarket Gallery G Apr 2011 - Jun 2011 Edinburgh (144) +0
Lomas, David (Curator)       +0
Exhibition Title

Surreale Dinge

 - Skulpturen und Objekte von Dalí bis Man Ray
SCHIRN Kunsthalle Frankfurt G Feb 2011 - May 2011 Frankfurt am Main (217) +0
Fotomuseum Winterthur G Feb 2010 - May 2010 Winterthur (109) +0
Exhibition Title

Virtuoso Illusion

 - Cross Dressing and the New Media Avant-Garde
MIT List Visual Arts Center G Feb 2010 - Apr 2010 Cambridge (258) +0
Exhibition Title

Gegen jede Vernunft

 - Surrealismus Paris - Prag
Wilhelm-Hack-Museum G Nov 2009 - Feb 2010 Ludwigshafen (48) +0
Galerie de France G Oct 2009 - Dec 2009 Paris (43) +0
Camden Arts Centre G Dec 2007 - Feb 2008 London (102) +0
Exhibition Title

The Vicious Circle

Whitechapel Gallery G Sep 2006 - Nov 2006 London (391) +0
Exhibition Title

Faces in the Crowd

 - Picturing Modern Life from Manet to Today
Castello di Rivoli - Museo d’Arte Contemporanea G Apr 2005 - Jul 2005 Torino (38) +0
Hamburger Kunsthalle G Mar 2005 - May 2005 Hamburg (185) +0
Exhibition Title

Faces in the Crowd

 - Picturing Modern Life from Manet to Today
Whitechapel Gallery G Dec 2004 - Mar 2005 London (391) +0
Exhibition Title

Speaking with Hands

 - Photographs from The Buhl Collection
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum - SRGM G Jun 2004 - Sep 2004 New York (392) +1
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects G Jan 2004 - Feb 2004 New York (79) +0
Exhibition Title


 - Lebende Bilder und Attitüden in Fotografie, Film und Video
Kunsthalle Wien G May 2002 - Aug 2002 Wien (30) +0
Zabriskie Gallery G Jan 2002 - Feb 2002 New York (42) +0
Institut Valencià d’Art Modern - Centre Julio Gonzalez (IVAM) S Nov 2001 - Jan 2002 Valencià (95) +0
Exhibition Title

Die unheimliche Frau

 - Weiblichkeit im Surrealismus
Kunsthalle Bielefeld G Sep 2001 - Nov 2001 Bielefeld (241) +0
Galerie Ariadne G Jun 2001 - Jun 2001 Wien (69) +0
Exhibition Title

Le siècle du corps

 - 100 photographies 1900-2000
Musée de l'Elysée G Sep 2000 - Dec 2000 Lausanne (91) +0
Grey Art Gallery & Study Center/ NYU G Nov 1999 - Jan 2000 New York (12) +0
Gering López Gallery G Oct 1999 - Nov 1999 New York (55) +0
Neue Galerie Graz - Universalmuseum Joanneum G Oct 1999 - Feb 2000 Graz (81) +0
The Detroit Institute of Arts G Jul 1999 - Nov 1999 Detroit (18) +0
Exhibition Title

Mirror Images

 - Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation
MIT List Visual Arts Center G Apr 1998 - Jun 1998 Cambridge (258) +0
Exhibition Title

Claude Cahun

 - Selbstdarstellungen
Museum Folkwang S Jan 1998 - Mar 1998 Essen (404) +1
Exhibition Title

Skulptur im Licht der Fotografie

Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum G Dec 1997 - Feb 1998 Duisburg (238) +0
Neue Galerie Graz - Universalmuseum Joanneum S Oct 1997 - Dec 1997 Graz (81) +0
Weibel, Peter (Curator)       +0
Kunstverein München e. V. S Jul 1997 - Sep 1997 München (66) +0
Exhibition Title

Inside the Visible 38 Artists

Whitechapel Gallery G Oct 1996 - Dec 1996 London (391) +0
The National Museum of Women in the Arts - NMWA G Jun 1996 - Sep 1996 Washington (13) +0
Exhibition Title

Inside the visible

 - An elliptical traverse of 20th century art in, of, and from the feminine
Institute of Contemporary Art - Boston G Jan 1996 - May 1996 Boston (56) +0
Zegher, Catherine de (Curator)       +0
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris - MAM S Jun 1995 - Sep 1995 Paris (797) +0
Audinet, Gérard (Curator)       +0