Claude Cahun's Art

cahun's life and art

Claude Cahun’s self-portraits are a dazzling, whirling blend of mystique, exhilaration, and solemnity. Claude Cahun’s life began as Lucy Schwob, but she later reclassified herself as gender-neutral.  Following Cahun’s arrest and ensuing incarceration for resisting the Nazis, most of Claude Cahun’s artwork was destroyed.


In 1894, Claude Cahun was originally born as Lucy Schwob to a Jewish household in Nantes, France. Lucy Schwob eventually changed her name to Claude Cahun to be gender-neutral as a creator and author.

early training

Moore and Cahun began to link themselves with the tiny circle of Parisian avant-garde individuals who were also playing with identity at the time.

mature period

Cahun joined an association of ‘revolutionary’ artists in 1932 when she encountered one of the Surrealist movement’s founders, Andre Breton.


Cahun’s technique draws into an artist’s urge to investigate the intersections of sexuality, gender, and power. Her self-portraiture heralds the beginning of a new tendency among non-male creatives.

photography style

Cahun’s work is infused with themes of sorrow, hopelessness, and uncertainty. Cahun does not create “complete” works; instead, all of the pictures and words merge to form a larger, unfinished total.

notable artworks

Self Portrait as a Young Girl (1914) Self Portrait, Head Between Hands  (1920) I Am In Training Don’t Kiss Me  (1927)

what kind of photography did she make?

Cahun recognizes that she doesn’t have the answers and, as a result, she exposes the rawness, grief, and misery of not knowing in an unusual way.  Cahun, like other female Surrealists, is fascinated by specific subjects like hair, fingers, and animal companions.