Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born Lucy Schwob in Nantes, she was the niece of writer Marcel Schwob . Her mother's mental problems meant that she was brought up by her maternal grandmother, Mathilde Cahun. In 1917, she adopted the pseudonym Claude Cahun, intentionally selecting a sexually ambiguous name. During the early twenties, she settled in Paris with her life-long partner Suzanne Malherbe. She published articles and novels, notably in the periodical Mercure de France, and befriended Henri Michaux, Pierre Morhange and Robert Desnos. In 1929, a photograph of hers was published in the journal Bifur. The following year, her autobiographical essay Aveux non avenus, illustrated with photomontages, was published by Carrefour.
In 1932 she joined the Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires, where she met André Breton and René Crevel . Following this, she started associating with the surrealist group, and later participated in a number of surrealist exhibitions, including the London International Surrealist Exhibition (New Burlington Gallery) and Exposition surréaliste d'Objets (Charles Ratton Gallery, Paris), both in 1936. In 1934, she published a short polemic essay, Les Paris sont Ouverts, and in 1935 took part in the founding of the left-wing group Contre Attaque, alongside André Breton and Georges Bataille.
In 1937 Cahun and Malherbe settled in Jersey. Following the outbreak of World War 2 and the German invasion, they became active as resistance fighters and propagandists. In 1944 they were arrested and sentenced to death, but the sentences were never carried out. However, Cahun's health never recovered from her treatment in jail, and she died in 1954.
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