Feminism, Surrealism and the Theater in a Photograph

The majority of photographer Claude Cahun’s imagery is associated with the feminist Surrealist movement. Her artwork focuses on issues related to gender and identity, with a particular emphasis on sexual ambivalence. Cahun also had a career as an actress, that—although brief—serves as a natural fit with her photography. Her interest in gender and theater is fully evidenced in a photograph included in the December 9th Important Photographs & Photobooks auction.  

Many of Cahun's self-portraits possess elements of the theater, as she masquerades in front of the camera, luring the viewer into a world of fantasy. She is the epitome of the “principal character,” projecting herself in front of the curtain, while blurring the line between a photographic portrait and a theater still. The year of this image, 1929, she was also active in Le Plateau, an experimental theater troupe. Utilizing her skills at character metamorphosis, she played "Elle" in Barbe-Bleue [Bluebeard], "Satan" in Le Mystère d'Adam and “Monsieur de la première table" in Banlieue.
Claude Cahun, Self-portrait with Roger Roussot in "Barbe-Bleue," silver print, 1929. Estimate: $14,000 to $18,000.

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