Iconic figure of the month
Claude Cahun famously said “Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”
Photographer, writer and political activist, Claude Cahun was born in 1894 in Nantes, France into an intellectual Jewish family. Named at birth as Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob, they later adopted the unisex name Claude Cahun. At 15 years old Cahun met Marcel Moore (born Suzanne Alberte Malherbe) and they became lifelong companions. Their romantic and creative collaboration lasted a lifetime.
Throughout their life, Cahun fought against convention and status quo. Cahun is mostly synonymous for their contributions to surrealist photography, particularly striking self-portraits, which questioned societal expectations of gender years ahead of their time. Cahun’s brand of surrealism shared a close connection to that of Man Ray and Salvador Dali, both of whom the artist spent time with in Paris.
Cahun was not a star in their own time. Cahun and Moore escaped France for the island of Jersey during World War II, where they spent their days working on anti-Nazi propaganda. Much of their art fell into obscurity, and was nearly lost after their death. Their photographs were never exhibited, their writings dismissed as convoluted and experimental, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that their work resurfaced.