Cahun and Moore rehearsed and photographically recorded the private performances that they staged in their "bedroom carnival" throughout the 1910s, creating something like a new iconography of gendered subjectivity in the process. A photograph of Cahun pouring over an 1899 tome whose lettered spine bears the title L'Image de la femme serves as the point of departure [fig.5, JHT/1995/39/t].

Cahun's head inclines as she studies this two-volume compendium with its engraved illustrations--cameo portraits of exemplary ladies throughout the ages from Penelope to the Empress Eugènie [fig.6., title page, L'Image de la femme by Armand Dayot].

At Cahun’s elbow, a box camera--emblem of representational agency (and perhaps a figure for the eye of Moore within this photograph)--counteracts the mind numbing effect of the feminine stereotypes that permeated the visual and literary culture of their era. With the help of a simple box camera, Cahun and Moore would scrutinize such clichés, image by image, and formulate responses to them. In one example, Cahun (or is it Moore?) turns her back to the camera and to a pool of still water that captures her reflection, as if to reject (twice over) the stereotypes of narcissism linked with feminine subjectivity as well as homosexuality [fig.7, JHT/1995/29/n].

During these years, Cahun penned new scripts for misunderstood heroines (Sappho, Cinderella, Salomé, Eve, Judith...) and Moore applied her formal training as graphic artist to the creation of pen and ink illustrations. "Feminism is already in the fairytales," Cahun remarked, the slightest shift in the angle of view will make the suppressed content plain.5 Cahun reformulated a dozen or so fables from the viewpoint of their "misunderstood" heroines and contributed several, including "Judith, la sadique," to the prestigious literary journal Mercure de France 6 for publication. She and Moore intended to publish a fully illustrated version of the collection under separate cover, but never realized this ambition. We encounter Moore's sardonic humor in the face of the castrating Judith that she created to illustrate this project, a face that bears more than a passing resemblance to that of her partner [fig.8, 2003 acquisition, uncatalogued].

The typescripts and illustrations that survive in the Jersey Heritage Trust collection enable us to imagine how such a publication might have turned out. Yet the circumstances that prevented Cahun and Moore from bringing the project to fruition remain a mystery.

The couple had already succeeded, after all, in publishing one illustrated book, Vues et visions, in print in 1919. As the title implies, the volume juxtaposed paired vignettes transforming contemporary "views" (two weathered skiffs tethered to an abandoned pier in the Brittany seaport of Le Croisic) into poetic "visions" (the stone figures of two boys permanently united in loving proximity upon a tomb in ancient Greece).7 An illumination by Moore frames each page of text penned by Cahun [figs.9-10, pgs 74 & 75 of Vues et visions].

Each set of illustrations forms a sort of theatrical proscenium converting a double-page spread into a theatrical space within which the commonplace stuff of everyday life can reveal, through poetic transformation, new levels of meaning. More specifically, the images conjured up for us reverberate with homoerotic double sense, participating in a homophile reconstruction of antiquity underway since the late nineteenth century. Indeed, this album's publication could be viewed as Cahun and Moore's artistic coming out, since it undoubtedly raised their public profile as an artistic couple, and affirmed (albeit in code) their affection for each other and the legitimacy of their bond.

A year after the publication of Vues et visions, Cahun and Moore migrated from the provinces to Paris and opened the doors of their left-bank atelier to a dynamic population of intellectuals, artists, and political activists [fig.11, JHT/1995/15/a].

Their address book (also archived in the Jersey Heritage Trust collection) traces the cultural and intellectual parameters of interwar Paris. The names noted here offer evidence of the couple's ties to the theatrical establishment (Edward de Max and Marguerite Moreno of the Comédie Française) as well as their engagement with experimental theater (in association with Pierre Albert-Birot, Paul Castan, Georgette Leblanc, Georges and Ludmilla Pitoëff, Beatrice "Nadja" Wanger, and Berthe D'Yd).

From 1925 to 1927, Cahun and Moore adhered to Les Amis des Arts Esotériques and participated in the life of the Théâtre Esotérique, founded by Berthe D'Yd and Paul Castan. The troupe specialized in what one reviewer described as "dramatic tableaux that made one dream, because of the preciousness and refinement of the palette, of Oscar Wilde's Salomé."8 Cahun assisted with, and occasionally performed in, the theater's esoteric spectacles--which included Sâr Péladan’s Babylone, La Prométhéide, and Oedipe et le Sphinx. These productions were staged in a cultural center founded by the Société Théosophique. Moore, by then an accomplished designer, offered her services to the company. The theatrical and fashion designs preserved in the Jersey Heritage Trust archives leave little doubt as to Moore's professional promise in this realm. Her schematic costume drawings, like the ones she conceived for stage idol Edward de Max, are sure-handed and expressive [fig.12, JHT/1995 uncatalogued].

Moore's fashion plates, though, best demonstrate the originality of her designs. A fashion plate dated 1917, for instance, anticipates the mode garçonne that would sweep post- World-War-I Paris and foreshadows, at the same time, the aesthetic trends that would revolutionize the arts of fashion and fashion illustration in the 1920s [fig.13, JHT/2003/l/16].

Here, a flat-chested girl with a cap of chestnut hair slouches into a stance of studied nonchalance, hands thrust deep into the pockets of her bell-bottom pants. Sporting a bandmaster's jacket with piping on the cuffs and collar, the model shifts her weight from hind foot to front, calling attention to the coordinated slippers. As if the fashions pictured here--including the woman's boyish body type and body language--were not sufficiently striking, Moore tosses off a final flourish--the curious treatment of the model's shadow. The shadowy double, which overlaps its originator like an uncanny apparition, has both an illogical relation to the light source and to subject's body. What is more, as it crosses the subject and her path to project itself against the wall, it lapses into opacity, effacing the baseboard in the background. The ghostly shadow intensifies the dramatic impact of what might have otherwise seemed a pleasantly decorative, if somewhat sassy, fashion drawing. This and other of Moore's works on paper from the same period defy easy categorization by drawing upon conventions of stage design and applying them to fashion and the reverse. Another remarkable example pictures a woman blanketed in a mottled cape striding theatrically across the page as if it were a stage [fig.14, JHT/2003/l/20].

Costume and set designs by Moore for the Théâtre Esotérique have never come to light--however, her photographs of rehearsals and graphics for handbills, posters, programs, and other promotional material attest to her involvement. Much of this material, which captures the symbolist spirit of the theater's productions, vaunts the charms of an exotic dancer named Beatrice Wanger, or Nadja as she was known [fig.15, JHT/1995 uncatalogued].

Only one or two photographs of Nadja (off stage) survived among the couple's effects, but a few of Moore's photos from this period picture Cahun posing as Buddha in the theater's Theosophist Society locale [fig.16, JHT/1995/35/l].9

The experience with the Théâtre Esotérique seems to have edged the couple toward a more serious career commitment to theater. Subsequently, Cahun auditioned before Georges and Ludmilla Pitoëff, whose work was respected within vanguard theatrical circles across Europe. Cahun had second thoughts, though, and declined an invitation to join the company, fearing that fragile physical and mental health would prevent her from keeping pace with occupational demands [fig.17, Moore, portrait of Georges et Ludmilla Pitoëff, courtesy of private collectors, Paris].


She remained in the Pitoëffs' orbit, however, and closely followed their theatrical ventures.

Indeed, she and Moore seem to have attended the full spectrum of divertissements available in Paris of the 1920s: poetry readings at Adrienne Monnier's bookstore, academic conferences at the Sorbonne, psychiatric teaching demonstrations at St. Anne's Hospital, performances of the Russian Ballet at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Hollywood movies and jazz-band jam sessions. (Cahun occasionally reviewed such events for the literary journal, La Gerbe, published by her father.) Their conversancy with all echelons of Parisian performance and visual culture enriched the performances that Cahun and Moore continued to stage and photograph at home in their Montparnasse atelier/apartment.

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