Sunday, December 21, 2008

Claude Cahun/Anita Berber

Below are two images that have always fascinated me, the first is of the surrealist artist Claude Cahun and the second is the fantastic painting by Otto Dix of Anita Berber. If was not for this painting, Berber would be largely unknown today...

Two remarkable women, way ahead of their time...

Claude Cahun was the artist pseudonym for Lucy Schwob who lived in Jersey with her stepsister Suzanne Malherbe (artist pseudonym Marcel Moore) from 1937 until her death in 1954. Cahun was a writer and photographer who produced provoking self-portraits often using costumes or masks as a way of exploring her identity. Her images are enigmatic and can be described as rash and subtle, inviting and rejecting, sexual and asexual.

Anita Berber was a notorious actor/dancer/poet/playwright who scandalized sex-obsessed Weimar Berlin during the 1920s. In an era where everything was permitted, Anita Berber's celebrations of "Depravity, Horror and Ecstasy" were condemned and censored. She often haunted Weimar Berlin's hotel lobbies, nightclubs and casinos, radiantly naked except for an elegant sable wrap, a pet monkey hanging from her neck, and a silver brooch packed with cocaine. Multi-talented Anita saw no boundaries between her personal life and her taboo-shattering performances. As such, she was Europe's first postmodern woman.

Books worth picking up:

The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Decadence.

Glitter and Doom: German portraits from the 1920s

Don't Kiss Me: The Art Of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore

Thanks to e-l-i-s-e for reminding me of the Dix painting-


Anonymous said...

Oooh...Anita Berber! The original exponent of, 'Live fast..die young &...leave a good looking corpse'.

Funny...but it's AB that I'm always reminded of when watching the 'head in a box' scene in The Night Porter. the Otto Dix. Very much into his war etchings.

You be safe, Colin Lorimer!

Hmmm...did you see that? Just occassionally, I will rise my head out of the seas of self-obssession & read someone else's profile ;)

joe bloke said...

was it Otto Dix who did the serial killer paintings?

or did I dream it?

no, I'm pretty sure it was him.

Lubbert Das said...

I got see the Berber painting at the Metropolitan a few yrs back Fluff. I must have returned to it least three times to gaze upon it- totally mesmerizing; the reds are so vibrant and alive it's like she's dancing in flames- very dramatic piece.

Love the War etchings too.

Yeah Joe your right, one of his most famous is Lustmord(Sexual murder)

floyd barber said...

That was great. I looked up some more of Cahun's work and was blown away. Merry Christmas!

Lubbert Das said...

Cheers- Floyd.
Happy holidays-

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd had a chance to see that. Glad you did though. Your description is good enough for me to see it differently. have a good Christmas, matey. And be safe! :)