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

Alias: Claude Cahun [Lucy Schwob]

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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 54 (S 7/ G 47) Did show together with - Top 5 of 2023 artists
(no. of shows) - all shows - Top 100
Man Ray [Emmanuel Rudinski] (26)- 496
Hans Bellmer (20)- 162
Cindy Sherman (14)- 336
Marcel Duchamp (14)- 415
Dora Maar [Henriette Theodora Markovitch] (14)- 42
Exhibitions by type
54:   12 / 29 / 13 / 0
Venues by type
44:   9 / 23 / 12 / 0
Curators 40
artist-info records May 1936 - May 2020
Countries - Top 5 of 10
United States (12)
Germany (11)
France (11)
United Kingdom (6)
Austria (3)
Cities - Top 5 of 30
Paris (9)
New York (7)
London (4)
Boston (3)
Wien (3)
Venues (no. of shows ) Top 5 of 44
Whitechapel Gallery (3)
Centre Pompidou - Musée National d'Art Moderne (3)
K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (2)
Neue Galerie Graz - Universalmuseum Joanneum (2)
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris - MAM (1/2) (2)
Curators (no. of shows) Top 5 of 40
Emma Lavigne(2), Quentin Bajac(2), Ingrid Pfeiffer(2), Peter Weibel(2), Aline Vidal(1)
Offers/Requests Exhibition Announcement S / G Solo/Group Exhibitions   (..) Exhibitions + Favorites
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Fantastische Frauen

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SCHIRN Kunsthalle Frankfurt G Feb 2020 - May 2020 Frankfurt am Main (227) +0
Pfeiffer, Ingrid (Curator)       +0
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Couples modernes

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Centre Pompidou - Metz G Apr 2018 - Aug 2018 Metz (27) +0
Lavigne, Emma (Curator)       +0
Alison, Jane (Curator)       +0
Pitiot, Cloé (Curator)       +0
Biezunski, Elia (Curator)       +0
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The Shape of Time

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien G Mar 2018 - Jul 2018 Wien (5) +0
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Les Mystères de la chambre noire

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Ubu Gallery G Jun 2017 - Sep 2017 New York (80) +0
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Kaye Donachie

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FRAC - Île-de-France G May 2017 - Jul 2017 Paris (2) +0
Franceschi, Xavier (Curator)       +0
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La Grande Madre

Fondazione Nicola Trussardi G Aug 2015 - Nov 2015 Milano (21) +0
Gioni, Massimiliano (Curator)       +0
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