- Category : 1894-births
- Type : GP
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Wishes 2
French artist, photographer and writer, whose work was both political and personal, and often undermined traditional concepts of gender roles. Though Cahun's writings suggested she identified as 'agender,' most academic writings use feminine pronouns when discussing her and her work, as there is little documentation that gender neutral pronouns were used or preferred by the artist.
Claude was the niece of an avant-garde writer Marcel Schwob and the great-niece of Orientalist David Léon Cahun. She was brought up by her grandmother, Mathilde Cahun.
She began making photographic self-portraits as early as 1912 (aged 18), and continued taking images of herself through the 1930s.
Around 1919, she changed her name to Claude Cahun, after having previously used the names Claude Courlis (after the curlew) and Daniel Douglas (after Lord Alfred Douglas).
During the early 1920s, she settled in Paris with her lifelong partner and step-sibling Suzanne Malherbe. For the rest of their lives together, Cahun and Malherbe (who adopted the name "Marcel Moore") collaborated on various written works, sculptures, photomontages and collages. The two published articles and novels, notably in the periodical "Mercure de France", and befriended Henri Michaux, Pierre Morhange and Robert Desnos.
Around 1922, Claude and Malherbe began holding artists' salons at their home. Among the regulars who would attend were artists Henri Michaux and André Breton and literary entrepreneurs Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier. In 1929, Cahun translated Havelock Ellis' theories on the third gender.
In 1932, she joined the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires, where she met André Breton and René Crevel. Following this, she started associating with the surrealist group, and later participated in a number of surrealist exhibitions, including the London International Surrealist Exhibition (New Burlington Gallery) and Exposition surréaliste d'Objets (Charles Ratton Gallery, Paris), both in 1936. In 1935, she took part in the founding of the left-wing group Contre Attaque, alongside André Breton and Georges Bataille.
In 1937, Cahun and Malherbe settled in Jersey. Following the fall of France and the German occupation of Jersey and the other Channel Islands, they became active as resistance workers and propagandists. Fervently against war, the two worked extensively in producing anti-German fliers. In 1944, Cahun was arrested and sentenced to death, but the sentences were never carried out. However, Cahun's health never recovered from her treatment in jail, and she died on 8 December 1954. She is buried in St Brelade's Church with her partner Suzanne Malherbe.
Cahun's collected writings were published in 2002 as "Claude Cahun – Écrits" (edited by François Leperlier).
In 2007, English popstar David Bowie created a multi-media exhibition of Cahun’s work in the gardens of the General Theological Seminary in New York.