About this artwork
Claude Cahun, born Lucy Schwob, was closely associated with the Paris Surrealists of the 1930s. Attracted to the group’s desire to transform society through the exploration of the unconscious, she challenged traditional ideas about gender and sexuality through her intimate photographic self-portraits, collages, and sculptures. For Object, Cahun altered a number of seemingly unrelated components—a doll’s hand, a cloud-shaped piece of wood, and a tennis ball painted with a wide-open eye—to produce a startling psychological resonance. The eye, in particular, a key Surrealist symbol of inner perception, also suggests female anatomy. On the base of the work, Cahun added the French phrase, “The Marseillaise is a revolutionary song, the law punishes counterfeiters with forced labor.” Much like the rest of the work, the inscription is a juxtaposition of disparate elements: the first, a well-known slogan from France’s antifascist coalition, the left-wing Popular Front, and the other, a phrase from Belgian currency. In combining these phrases, Cahun seems to point an accusatory finger at the supposed “revolutionary” leaders of France—a rare direct reference to politics in a Surrealist artwork. Her assemblages were typically ephemeral and made to be photographed; Object is the only sculptural work by the artist known to still exist in its original form.
- Claude Cahun
- Ville de Paris, Départment de (Object designed in)
- Wood and paint with tennis ball, hair, and found objects
- Not signed, inscribed on base: La Marseillaise est un chant révolutionnaire, la loi punit le contrefaiteur des travaux forcés
- 13.7 × 10.7 × 16 cm (5 3/8 × 6 3/8 × 4 in.)
- Through prior gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman