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At MoMA

Mary AnnCaws: Dadaglobe Reconstructed, 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 ...

At the North Miami Museum

Mary AnnCaws: Alice Paalen Rahon, 20 February 2020

... Alice​ Paalen 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 entirely to painting ...

Cards on the Table

Mary AnnCaws: Robert Desnos and Surrealism for the masses, 3 June 2004

Robert Desnos, Surrealism, and the Marvellous in Everyday Life 
by Katharine Conley.
Nebraska, 270 pp., £37.95, March 2004, 0 8032 1523 1
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... 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) has wanted to make Conley’s claim, or indeed anything like it ...

Snapshotism

Mary AnnCaws: Picabia's Dada, 21 February 2008

I Am a Beautiful Monster 
by Francis Picabia, translated by Marc Lowenthal.
MIT, 478 pp., £22.95, October 2007, 978 0 262 16243 2
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The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris 
by George Baker.
MIT, 476 pp., £24.95, October 2007, 978 0 262 02618 5
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... 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 ...

Ondine et Paradis

Mary AnnCaws: Breton in love, 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 to André Breton, who had married her and written L’Amour fou for her in 1937 ...

Picassomania

Mary AnnCaws: Roland Penrose’s notebooks, 19 October 2006

Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose 
by Elizabeth Cowling.
Thames and Hudson, 408 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 500 51293 0
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... 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 sheep’s legs; nothing more natural: animals lurking in the animal ...

The Artist as Fruit

Mary AnnCaws: Paula Modersohn-Becker, 8 August 2013

Paula Modersohn-Becker: The First Modern Woman Artist 
by Diane Radycki.
Yale, 246 pp., £40, 0 300 18530 8
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... 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 her father worked as a building and works inspector on the newly nationalised railway ...

I, too, am an artist

Linda Nochlin: Dora Maar, 4 January 2001

Dora Maar with and without Picasso: A Biography 
by Mary AnnCaws.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £24.95, October 2000, 0 500 51009 1
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... and the body served up in disjunctive, bulging, meat-like slabs, an image which is, in Mary AnnCaws’s words, ‘a supreme evocation of the sheer naked violence of war’. More ambiguous, in terms of Dora Maar’s persona, is Portrait of Dora in a Garden of 10 December 1938, a full-scale formal portrait in ...

Unreal Food Uneaten

Julian Bell: Sitting for Vanessa, 13 April 2000

The Art of Bloomsbury 
edited by Richard Shone.
Tate Gallery, 388 pp., £35, November 1999, 1 85437 296 3
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First Friends 
by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 157 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 670 88613 0
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Bloomsbury in France 
by Mary AnnCaws and Sarah Bird Wright.
Oxford, 430 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 19 511752 2
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... drawings from the correspondents. In contrast to this testimony of passion for English landscape, Mary AnnCaws and Sarah Bird Wright document their theme by trawling the letters of the Woolfs, the Stracheys, the Bells et al for French references. The result is easier to browse than to read right through (they’ve ...

Boxing the City

Gaby Wood, 31 July 1997

Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell 
by Deborah Solomon.
Cape, 426 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 224 04242 4
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... life and thoughts are his selected diaries, Joseph Cornell’s Theatre of the Mind, edited by Mary AnnCaws, and Charles Simic’s prose poems, an inspired labour of love called Dime Store Alchemy. Cornell’s life as an artist began the day he showed his Ernst-inspired collages to Julien Levy, whose gallery ...

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