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Claude Cahun
(1894 - 1954) France

Claude Cahun

Writer, photographer

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Claude CahunCahun was born Lucy Renée Matilde Schowob into a family of prominent Jewish intellectuals. Brought up in the island of Jersey, she studied at Oxford in 1907-8. Subsequently she moved to Paris, together with her lover Suzanne Malherbe, who worked as a designer and artist under another male pseudonym, Marcel Moore. Photos of both women show them presenting a boyish image, with very short hair and androginous faces.

For her first photographic self-portraits Cahun used the pseudonym Claude Courlis. In 1932 Cahun became a member of the Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires that included André Breton and other surrealists who, a year later, were expelled from the group for their views.

Cahun and her lover Malherbe returned to La Rocquaise on Jersey in 1937. After the German invasion of Jersey in 1940 they bevame active in the resistance movement but were arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and sentenced to death for inciting nazi troops to mutiny. They remained imprisoned until 1945 when the island was liberated. Cahun died from the after-effects of her imprisonment.

Claude CahunClaude Cahun

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Source: excerpts from: Gabriele Griffin, Who's Who in Lesbian and Gay and Writing, Routledge, London, 2002

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