Google Doodle Honors Claude Cahun, French Photographer

French surreal photographer Claude Cahun

Google on Monday to honor a committed artist. This French surrealist photographer and writers whose works challenged norms around gender and sexuality in the early 20th century.

And the doodle of the day, google dedicated to the writer Claude Cahun, who was born under the name of Lucy Schwob 127 years ago in Nantes.

Who Claude Cahun?

Claude Cahun was born on October 25, 1894, in Nantes, France, into a prominent Jewish family of authors and journalists. From a young age, Cahun was raised by their grandmother, as their mother suffered from mental illness.

Cahun was the child of newspaper owner Maurice Schwob and Victorine Marie Courbebaisse. The artist (who was born Lucy Schwob) grew up surrounded by creative people: Maurice’s brother was avant-garde writer Marcel Schwob and his uncle was traveler and writer David Léon Cahun.

At about the age of 15, Cahun acquainted herself friends with Marcel Moore (who was previously known as Suzanne Malherbe), a friendship that grew into artistic collaboration and a romantic relationship between the two. Then a few years later, the two changed their names together to be identified as a non-binary. Cahun especially was opposed to the traditional gender binary, deciding at that time to cut their hair as a show of rebellion when gender non-conformity being considered taboo in France at the time.

Around 1915 when Cahun cut their hair very short and she began taking self-portraits against a neutral background, dressed either as a sailor, a sportsman, a dandy or in a men’s suit. And in 1917, the artist changed their name, according to the Paris-based Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions (AWARE).

 And often making use of surrealism, particularly through the reversal of gender expression. For example, “I am in training, don’t kiss me” images Cahun as an overtly feminine bodybuilder. Along with their photography, Cahun was also a prolific author, between short stories, novels, and essays, often in collaboration with Moore.

Cahun’s writing was devoted to speaking out against anti-Semites and particularly Nazis. Not long after Germany occupied the Channel Islands in 1940, where Cahun and Moore were living at the time, the couple turned their focus to anti-war activism. They created anti-German propaganda including fliers, banners, and pamphlets, craftily dispersed in provocative places like soldiers’ pockets and inside packs of cigarettes.

The couple was arrested by German forces in 1944, and sentenced to death for their crimes. But their death sentence was not carried out before Germany was forced out of the Channel Islands, hence Cahun’s treatment in prison caused damage they never fully recovered from until Cahun died in 1954.

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