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Mary Ann Caws

Mary Ann Caws’s new translations of Alice Paalen Rahon’s poetry will be published later this year.

AlicePaalen Rahon was a shape-shifter par excellence, who casually changed her date and place of birth (1904 in Besançon, not 1916 in Brittany), her name and nationality, sexual orientation and artistic genre. After publishing three volumes of poems in French as Alice Paalen, she divorced and took her mother’s maiden name, Rahon; by now living in Mexico, she turned almost...

At MoMA: Dadaglobe Reconstructed

Mary Ann Caws, 7 September 2016

In​ 1920, Samuel Rosenstock, better known as the Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of the Dada movement, which wanted to remake the world as an experientially liberating place where meanings could be freely rewritten, asked fifty artists from ten countries to contribute work that could be published in an anthology to be entitled Dadaglobe. Dada had begun in 1916 in the...

Paula Modersohn-Becker

Mary Ann Caws, 8 August 2013

The story of Paula Modersohn-Becker is, according to Diane Radycki, ‘the missing piece in the history of 20th-century modernism’. This is a large claim, and the basis for it is Modersohn-Becker’s series of nude self-portraits, the first such works by a woman. Paula Becker grew up in Dresden until she was 12, when her family moved to the smaller, wealthy city of Bremen, where...

Breton in love

Mary Ann Caws, 8 September 2011

One late January afternoon in 1979, before taking the night train from Paris to Barcelona, I had tea with Jacqueline Lamba in her studio apartment on the fifth floor of 8 boulevard Bonne Nouvelle. I climbed the many steps more slowly than Jacqueline, who bounded up in her long skirt (like those of her friend Frida Kahlo). She was a painter, and ‘scandalously beautiful’, according...

Picabia's Dada

Mary Ann Caws, 21 February 2008

Picabia’s book of writings and drawings, I Am a Beautiful Monster, is wrapped in a brown-bag cover of monsterdom, while George Baker’s book about Picabia, The Artwork Caught by the Tail, is presented in a costume of gleaming gold: so we have the modest-appearing original, with its provocative title, and the shiny interpretation of that writing and drawing. In Marc...

Roland Penrose’s notebooks

Mary Ann Caws, 19 October 2006

A lot of the stories, truthful or otherwise, about Picasso are as colourful as they are improbable. Picasso liked the mystery, was eager for no one to be sure what he would do next. Told that Joanna Drew, a curator at the Hayward Gallery, had found cocoons huddled in the slits of his Man with a Sheep, Picasso said that at Vauvenargues one day he had felt a wasps’ nest between the...

This engrossing book sets out to claim something for its subject that no other English-language publication has even thought of. I do not believe that any among those of us who have written on Surrealism in general and on Robert Desnos in particular, admiring though we are of this poet who was the first to perform automatic sleep speaking (and always outperformed anyone and everyone at it)...

Dora Maar

Linda Nochlin, 4 January 2001

Most people, if they think of Dora Maar at all, remember her as the subject of one of Picasso’s most persistent and variegated portrait series. There is Dora Maar the elegant woman of the...

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Sitting for Vanessa

Julian Bell, 13 April 2000

My grandmother was the painter Vanessa Bell. She died aged 81 when I was eight. I loved my grandmother, but 39 years later I have few memories of her. If, that is, a ‘memory’ is some...

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