Claude, Claude Cahoon, Marcel discussed on Encyclopedia Womannica
This month we're talking about visionaries. Today's visionary lived their life challenging gender and questioning identity. They refused to be defined or confined by the societal norms for women in the early 20th century. Let's talk about Claude cahoon. Claude kahun was born on October 25th, 1894 in not France. While alive, Claude used she her pronouns. But Claude for much of their life spoke about living a gender neutral existence. So for this episode, we'll be using they them pronouns. Claude came from a highly intellectual middle class Jewish family. Their father, Maurice Schwab, owned a newspaper. Their uncle, Marcel Schwab, was a renowned symbolist writer, and their grandfather, David Leon kahun was an influential orientalist. Claude's mother struggled with mental illness. So Claude was mostly raised by their grandmother. It was from her that clot adopted the last name kahun. After some anti semitic incidents at their school in France, Claude did a brief stint at a boarding school in England when they were 12. But their mental health began to suffer in their teen years. They struggled with anorexia, suicidal thoughts and crippling depression. When Claude returned to Nantes, they met their soulmate and lifelong partner, Suzanne Malay. Their first meeting was electric and their relationship was characterized by their love of art and similar schools of thought. During a time when two women in a romantic relationship was seen as unconventional. Claude and Suzanne were able to disguise their relationship with stepsisters. When Claude's father remarried Suzanne's mother years later. Around 1919, Claude and Suzanne moved to Paris. It was during this period that the couple adopted the gender neutral names of Claude cahoon and Marcel Moore. The transition to Claude was a rejection of sexual and gender norms. In Paris, Claude studied literature and philosophy at the sorbonne. They and Marcel began hosting salons for forward thinking writers and artists to discuss social justice issues. Claude had dabbled in photography as a teenager, but it wasn't until the 1920s that they began investing their time and energy into the medium. With Marcel's help, Claude produced compelling, highly staged, sometimes playful images of themselves. The demonstrated their place on the fringes of the surrealist movement. Claude would orchestrate and pose for the photo, while Marcel would snap the shot. It was a collaborative effort. Claude was styled as a variety of characters and genders. Usually with an element of undermining societal expectations for women. Professor David gesi at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago described Claude as an artist who turns the camera on themselves to see who else they can become. For Claude and Marcel, the photographs were less about producing art and being famous, and more about being free. In addition to their photography, Claude was also producing literary works. In 1925, they published heroines, a series of monologues that contained witty comparisons of female fairytale characters to the modern day view of women. 5 years later, they published a collection of poems, dreams and essays featuring surrealist photo montages called Ava non avenues. The goal was to condemn conservatism in France. With fascism on the rise in the 1930s, Claude became more involved in politics. They joined a French association of revolutionary artists and writers. Many of whom were surrealists. Taking advantage of their growing popularity, Claude used their art as a form of indirect activism against the French Communist Party. In 1937, Claude and Marcel moved to Jersey, a British island between England and France. Claude still produced literary and photographic art. But their connection to the broader world was minimal. The local Jersey residents referred to them as Les madams, meaning the ladies. Claude and Marcel witnessed nazism spread throughout Europe. When the Germans invaded Jersey in 1940, the couple did not go down without a fight. Because of their unsuspecting outward identity as two older women. They were able to secretly spread anti Nazi propaganda among soldiers. They wrote short messages on small pieces of paper under the guise of an unhappy soldier. The messages included sentiments such as the war was lost. Hitler was a vampire, and it was time for the German troops to look out for themselves. Cloud and Marcel slipped these notes to cigarette packets, uniform pockets and any other nook they could find. In July of 1944, Claude and Marcel's resistance came to an end when they were arrested and sentenced to death. They were released almost a year later when the island was liberated from Nazi rule in May of 1945. Clod and Marcel returned home, only to find that the Nazis had destroyed much of their art. Claude's resistance efforts were recognized and awarded in 1951 with the medal of French gratitude. Claude cahoon died on December 8th, 1954 at the age of 60. Marcel Moore took her own life 18 years later. The two are buried together under a single gravestone, engraved with their birth names.