Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore: A Life Defiant

Self Portrait c.1927

New exhibition in the greenhouse gallery at Guernsey Museum, Candie

Private View: Thursday 23rd April 5:30pm – 7:00pm
Exhibition Run: Friday 24th April – Sunday 14th June 2015

As part of the Guernsey Heritage Festival the Guernsey Arts Commission have taken the opportunity to collaborate with Jersey Heritage Trust to celebrate the work of two step-sisters, the Surrealist artist Claude Cahun and the avant-garde artist Marcel Moore. During the Occupation they campaigned against tyranny and resisted Nazi occupiers.

Cahun and Moore were the aliases for Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, who were born in Nantes and lived in Jersey from 1937.

Together Cahun and Moore created some of the most startlingly original and enigmatic photographic images of the twentieth century. They lived, loved and worked together for more than 30 years challenging the boundaries of gender and sexual identity.

self portrait (reflected in mirror, chequered jacket) 1928

This conviction and bravery almost cost them their lives during the Occupation. Moore spoke fluent German, although she kept this fact a secret from the occupying forces, and would translate BBC radio broadcasts into German. The words were then typed or handwritten on small pieces of tissue paper. The impression given was that they were written by a German officer.
Distributing these anti-Nazi leaflets were intended to demoralise the troops and encourage soldiers to desert. The leaflets were signed “The soldier without a name”.
In July 1944 the two women were arrested and charged with listening to the BBC and inciting the troops to rebellion. The latter charge carried the death penalty. The pair were imprisoned for almost a year before the Liberation.

Self portrait 8 May 1945

Prefiguring by over seventy years many of the concerns explored by contemporary artists today, the importance of Cahun’s work is increasingly recognised.
Since her “rediscovery” over a decade ago, Claude Cahun has attracted what amounts to a cult following among art historians and critics working from postmodern, feminist, and queer theoretical perspectives.

Marcel Moore-1

 
Marcel Moore was a graphic artist and her illustrations are typical of the type of work emerging from the Paris fashion scene at the time, which reflected the growing interest in non-Western cultures, especially that of Japan.

She illustrated books and magazines and produced publicity material for leading figures from avant-garde theatre and dance. Her work was exhibited in venues such as the Salon d’Automne.

Guernsey Arts Commission said:

We’re so thrilled to have this opportunity to exhibit Cahun and Moore’s work. It fits in perfectly with the special 70th anniversary of Liberation Day, and hope that this will draw more people to explore the fascinating history that is attached to these artists. We welcome everyone to attend the free opening of the photographic exhibition on Thursday 23 April, 5.30pm-7.00pm for a relaxed evening at the greenhouse gallery at Guernsey Museum.

What do you think? Have your say...