Claude Cahun

Remarkable Women Claude Cahun
From Jersey Heritage Vimeo

Claude Cahun (French pronunciation: ​[klod ka.œ̃], born Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob,[1] 25 October 1894 – 8 December 1954) was a French surrealist photographer, sculptor, and writer.[2]

They adopted the pseudonym Claude Cahun in 1914.[3] Cahun is best known as a writer and self-portraitist, who assumed a variety of performative personae.

Cahun’s work is both political and personal. In Disavowals, she writes: “Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.4]


Warning: this memoir makes the enigma of Claude Cahun even more enigmatic; anyone who comes to it looking for confessions will first have to deal with her disavowals.Memories? Choice morsels.

Around 1914, she changed her name to Claude Cahun, after having previously used the names Claude Courlis (after the curlew) and Daniel Douglas (after Lord Alfred Douglas). During the early 1920s, she settled in Paris with lifelong partner Suzanne Malherbe, who adopted the pseudonym Marcel Moore.[6]: 69 The two became step-siblings in 1917 after Cahun’s divorced father and Moore’s widowed mother married, eight years after Cahun and Moore’s artistic and romantic partnership began.[10] For the rest of their lives together, Cahun and Moore collaborated on various written works, sculptures, photomontages and collages. The two published articles and novels, notably in the periodical Mercure de France, and befriended Henri Michaux, Pierre Morhange, and Robert Desnos.

Collaboration with Marcel Moore

Cahun’s work was often a collaboration with Marcel Moore. Cahun and Moore collaborated frequently, though this often goes unrecognized. It is believed that Moore was often the person standing behind the camera during Cahun’s portrait shoots and was an equal partner in Cahun’s collages.[12]

With the majority of the photographs attributed to Cahun coming from a personal collection, not one meant for public display, it has been proposed that these personal photographs allowed for Cahun to experiment with gender presentation and the role of the viewer to a greater degree.[12]

During World War II, Cahun was also active as a resistance worker and propagandist. n 1944, Cahun and Moore were arrested and sentenced to death, but the sentence was never carried out, as the island was liberated from German occupation in 1945.[18] However, Cahun’s health never recovered from her treatment in jail, and she died in 1954. Cahun is buried in St Brelade’s Church with partner Marcel Moore.”

“Claude Cahun.” Wikipedia, Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.

Collaborative works by Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore at the San Francisco MOMA:

Moore, Marcel

French 1892, Nantes, France1972, Saint Hélier, Jersey Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at to confirm it will be on view.

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