The Textual-Visual Collaborations of Blaise Cendrars

Speaker: Professor Eric Robertson, Professor of Modern French Literary and Visual Cultures, Royal Holloway, University of London

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)

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5:30pm, 7 Feb 2022

Monday 7th February 2022, 5.30pm - 7.00pm GMT

Free, booking essential

Lecture Theatre 1, Vernon Square and online via Livestream

Please note this event will be live streamed to allow those outside London access to the event. All those who wish to access the event via this online method should book a ‘Livestream’ ticket rather than ‘Lecture Theatre’ ticket.

Booking closes 30 minutes before the event start time.




Word and Image
Abstract black and tan image with French words and shapes, with a large yellow circle on top
Fernand Léger, illustration for Blaise Cendrars, La Fin du monde filmée par l'ange N.-D. (Paris: Editions de la Sirène, 1919).