Claude Cahun Gender, Art, Age, Cause of Death, Book, Wiki, Social Life

When we talk about global surrealist photographers, Claude Cahun is a popular name! Her birth name was Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob. Later she adopted the pseudonym Cahun. Her surrealist photography skills are breathtaking. However, she was more famous for her self-portrait and writing skills. Her works questioned the existing stereotypical condition of the society and political scenario of that time. Her anti-realistic autobiography, Disavowals, stated that she did not believe in gender specification. She worked as a propagandist at the time of World War II. She was born into a family of Jews; her works were encircled in theater, photography, and writing.

An Overview of Claude Cahun’s Childhood and Family

Lucy Schwob was born in 1894 in Nante, France. Her family comprised middle-class Jewish parents. But her family consisted of intellectuals and scholars. David Leon Cahun, the renowned orientalist, was her great uncle. Marcel Schwob, the Avant-garde writer, was her uncle.

David Leon Cahun, her grandfather, was also known for Orientalism. Mary-Antoinette Courbebaisse, her mother, became a mental illness victim when she was four years old. She was shifted to psychiatric care shortly after the illness. Cahun’s blind grandmother, Mathilde, raised her. She battled debilitating depression, suicidal thoughts, and anorexia in her teenage years. She died at the age of 60.

When she was sent to boarding school, she met Marcel, with whom she had spent her entire life. Later, Cahun’s father married Suzanne’s mother, making both of them each other’s step-sisters. However, they continued to live as lovers. In 1919, they relocated to Paris. This time marked the peak time of the Dada movements.

Claude Cahun Information About

Original name Lucy Renée Mathilde Schwob
Age 60
Date of Birth October 25, 1894
Place of Birth Nantes, France
Date of Death December 8, 1954
Nationality French
Profession French writer, photographer
Net worth $1- $5 Million
Mother Mary-Antoinette Courbebaisse
Father Maurice Schwob
Siblings No
Children Not Known
Zodiac Sign Scorpio

Educational Details

During Claude Cahun high-school days, she was subjected to antisemitism. She was also admitted to a boarding school in Surrey, England, for some time. She met her love and life partner, Suzanne Malherbe, in her boarding school. She attended Parsons Mead School (a private institute). She was also a student of the Paris University, Sorbonne. At the age of 18, she started photographic self-portraits.

Claude Cahun is global surrealist photographers
Claude Cahun is global surrealist photographers

Claude Cahun’s Friends and Social Life

Claude Cahun spent her adulthood with her sole partner Suzanne Malherbe. They spent most of the time on Jersey Island. The factors that brought them closer were art and life. They both adopted pseudonyms according to their gender preferences.

Claude Cahun is global surrealist photographers
Claude Cahun is global surrealist photographers


Claude Cahun’s art speaks of surrealism. They are the silent voice against the cliched gender determination of French society. Claude Cahun had always stood against the then political turmoil. Some of her famous photographic art are:

  • 1914- A self-portrait portrays a young girl. This photo explained the link with Greek mythology, the acute depression that she and her mother suffered, and the darkest aspects related to life.
  • 1920- Self-portrait with the head between two hands. The artist portrayed her transition from a long-haired girl to a shaved scalp personality. She mainly pointed to the gender-neutral idea.
  • 1927- A series of photographs named “I am in training don’t kiss me. ” Cahun was inclined to make-up, props, and highly stylish clothing during this series.
  • 1930- Plate no. 1 from Aveux non-avenue. It is believed that this piece’s art idea was inspired by the works of Max Ernst, Hannah Hoch, and Hans Arp. Moreover, since Moore was the illustrator, it was her idea to make such a composite work.
  • 1947- Self-portrait in a graveyard. The art exhibited the constant dilemma of life and death she faced in the Nazi prison.

Major Works

Claude Cahun is popularly known for her encompassing surrealism, theater, photography, and writing. Her surrealistic photography is visual aesthetics. She has published uncountable images of the vamp, Japanese puppet, bodybuilder, doll, excellent, etc., with her self-portrait features.

All of Claude Cahun’s art have something in common: revealing the head and shoulder, defiance of gender-dominating philosophy undermining the patriarchal gaze. Some of her well-known writings are:

Major Works

Heroine 1925
Aveux non avenus 1930

Cahun joined the organization of French revolutionary artists in 1932.

Personal Life

  • Besides writing and photography, she became interested in politics. Thus, she stood against Fascism throughout the entire 1930s. She was introduced to Andre Breton, one of the important faces of the surrealist movement. This meeting was the planting of the surrealist seed into the mind of Cahun.
  • Claude Cahun and her partner started working with the members. In 1936, when the French Communist Party and the Surrealists had separated, she chose the side of Georges and Breton Bataille. In 1937, she and Moore had changed their address to La Rocquaise, a home on Jersey Island.
  • They started maintaining a little distance from their usual world ending their involvement in the surrealist movement but their work was still on. During these years both Lucy and Suzanne used their birth names. The people of Jersey called them “Les Madames”. Here, they were majorly famous for strange behaviors like wearing trousers.

Trade Mark

  • Cahun’s work transitioned personae, and their personal life has made her an inspiration to the future artist. Her stand against heterosexual relationships and self-portrait based on gender shifting made her an important historical figure. Her photography was the first to introduce self-portraiture to female artists.
  • Her works have influenced and inspired many celebrity figures, including David Brownie. He also even produced an art exhibition as a tribute to her works.

List of Cahun’s Art Exhibitions

  • 2008- Claude Cahun , The Douglas Hyde , Dublin, Ireland
  • 2011- Claude Cahun ,Jeu de Paume, Paris ,1e, Paris, France
  • 2012- The Art of Claude Cahun: Entre Nous,The Art Institute of Chicago,Loop, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • 2013- Claude Cahun: Les mises en scène d’objets ,Le Studiolo Galerie de France ,Paris, France
  • 2015- Claude Cahun: Beneath This Mask , East Gallery at NUA , Norwich, UK
  • 2016- Claude Cahun: Beneath This Mask,Exeter Phoenix,Exeter, UK
  • 2019- This Sex Which Is Not One , Haifa Museum of Art , Haifa, Israel
  • 2020- Claude Cahun: Under the Skin ,Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst ,Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2022- Claude Cahun: Under the Skin ,Kunsthal Rotterdam ,Rotterdam, Netherlands

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She has spent some of the most horrific days in her late years. She was one of the prisoners of the Nazi prison, being a Jew. When she was released in 1945, her health was severely damaged. She continued to struggle with her poor health. It is assumed that the one-year prison stay’s side effects might be. Claude Cahun’s death happened soon after at the age of 60. 

Unknown Facts

  • Lucy Schwob was the original name of Cahun. She later adopted the pseudonym.
  • Claude Cahun was born into a Jewish Family.
  • Marcel Schwob and David Leon Cahun were her uncle and grandfather, respectively.
  • She was subjected to racism in her school days.
  • Her mother had an acute mental illness. Thus, her blind grandmother raised her.
  • Like her mother, she also battled suicidal thoughts and depression in her childhood days.
  • She met her lifelong partner Marcel Moore in her boarding days.
  • Her art is famous for her gender-neutral persona and non-heterosexual relationship.
  • One of her famous self-portraits was a mirror image portraying her reflection.
  • She played the role of propagandist during World War II.
  • Being a Jew, Cahun spent a year in jail and was freed in 1952.
  • Her health started irrevocably deteriorating as she battled mortality and loneliness inside the prison.
  • After getting released from jail, she found that the Nazis had destroyed all her works.
  • She was awarded the medal as French gratitude for playing a pivotal role in resistance in 1951.
  • She died at the age of 60 in the Channel Islands.
  • Her art is an inspiration to a celebrity like David Brownie.

Reference Link


Claude Cahun is a well-known French artist. She had a history of battling depression for a long time. Her troubled school days made her shift to boarding. She had always been vocal about the gender biases in the patriarchal society. Her art and writings are based on the concept of life and art. She was the first female to introduce the art of self-portraiture in photography.

Where is Claude Cahun buried?

Claudia Cahun died at the age of 60. Even death cannot separate her partnership of her with Marcel Moore. They both are buried in St. Brelade’s Church. Their collaboration had evolved since their boarding school days. They both were believers in life and art. Her partner Marcel Moore illustrated all her significant artworks.

Was Claude Cahun a Dada artist?

The Dada artists began to evolve after World War I. These satirical pieces criticized the follies of the war and every negative aspect of society. Cahun also boarded the same boat as she started questioning gender-based roles. All of her art depicted the same questions over and over.

When did Claude Cahun move to Paris?

She and her partner Marcel Moore relocated to Paris at the beginning of 1920. She joined revolutionary artists like Georges Bataille and Andre Bretton. She was awarded the French medal in 1951 as a token of gratitude for her resistance propaganda. She also had a significant role as a propagandist during World War II.

Why was Claude Cahun important?

Claude Cahun is considered the queen in self-portraiture and surrealism. Besides, she was also a great critic, essayist, and poet. Her famous work is Aveux non avenus. She stated that there is no such of male and female, and neuter is the ultimate gender. Her works have profoundly influenced future artists.

Who was influenced by Claude Cahun?

Many celebrity figures have drawn inspiration from her artworks. David Brownie is among them. He was greatly influenced and decided to produce an exhibition to tribute to the famous artist’s painting. Many other future artists have also shown interest in surrealism portraiture.

What Photography Did Claude Cahun Create?

She has created some of the most intense photographs in art history. All her photography is composed of self-portraiture. They also showcased her transition from a long hair girl to a short-haired persona. She also described the inner conflict of an individual, like depression and loneliness.