The visual arts influenced the writings of Blaise Cendrars for a half-century after he first joined the avant-garde scene in Paris in 1912. As he later remarked, ‘At that time, painters and writers were one and the same. We lived with one another and probably shared the same concerns; you might even say that every writer had his painter.’ Cendrars’s collaborations with Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger and others rank amongst his most innovative and distinctive creations. Rather than conventionally illustrated books, these are ‘iconotexts’ that employ the text and images as interrelated elements cohabiting in the same discursive space. Employing techniques of collage and montage, they import tropes from painting, photography and cinema as literary practices while treating words as a visual medium. By analysing some key examples, this illustrated talk will explore some of the most significant ways in which the visual arts shaped Cendrars’s oeuvre.
Eric Robertson is Professor of Modern French Literary and Visual Cultures at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written widely on the French and European avant-garde, on bilingual writers and on text-image relations. He is the author of Writing Between the Lines: René Schickele, Citoyen français, deutscher Dichter (1995), Arp: Painter, Poet, Sculptor (2006; winner of the 2007 R.H. Gapper Book Prize), Arp: the Poetry of Forms (2017, with Frances Guy) and Blaise Cendrars: the Invention of Life (in press; due for publication in May 2022). He has co-edited Yvan and Claire Goll: Texts and Contexts (1997, with Robert Vilain), Robert Desnos: Surrealism in the Twenty-First Century (2006, with Marie-Claire Barnet and Nigel Saint), Dada and Beyond Vol. 1: Dada Discourses and Dada and Beyond vol. 2: Dada and its Legacies (2011 and 2012, with Elza Adamowicz). He has written extensively on modern and contemporary art for museums and galleries in Europe and the USA, and with Frances Guy he co-curated the international touring exhibition Arp: The Poetry of Forms (Kröller-Müller Museum and Turner Contemporary, 2017-18).
Organised by Dr Caroline Levitt (The Courtauld)