Paris: José Corti, 1937. First edition.  pp. Publisher’s quarter green cloth and illustrated red paper boards. Very minor wear, near fine or better. A major work of Surrealism, incorporating Cahun’s “tableaux photographiques” with Deharme’s poems, which despite the subtitle are decidedly not juvenile: as Martin Parr and Gerry Badger note in The Photobook (vol I, p. 108), “Deharme’s imagery is not just dark in an Alice in Wonderland sense, but positively disturbing."
Claude Cahun (1894-1954), born Lucy Schwob, embraced gender fluidity and ambiguity decades before the advent of queer theory; as they wrote in their book Aveux non Avenus, “Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.” With their partner in art and life, Marcel Moore (born Suzanne Malherbe), they blazed a path of both confrontation and challenge, explorations of beauty and gender and sexuality, within their writings and particularly their photographs. Little published during their lifetime, Le Coeur de Pic is one of the few publications in which their work appeared, and the fact of their collaboration both with their partner Moore in the images, and with the presentation of Deharme’s poems, marks this as a landmark not only in Surrealism but also in feminist and LGBTQ+ studies—particularly in a work presented “pour les enfants.”
Elizabeth Manchester of the Tate Gallery writes, “Cahun’s twenty illustrations for Deharme’s poetry are photographs of compositions of miniature worlds that elevate ordinary objects into a mysterious and extra-ordinary world of the imagination. Featuring dolls, fragments of dolls, dolls’ house furniture, flowers, leaves, seeds and such humble domestic objects as forks, spoons, scissors and reels of cotton, they were created in a variety of settings both indoors and out. Powerfully symbolist in flavour, a result of the influence of Symbolist poetry on the young Cahun, whose uncle Maurice Schwob was a symbolist novelist and poet, they combine a child’s ability to invest life in inanimate forms with an intensely poetic sensibility. A tiny doll’s hand, severed from its body, appears in many of Cahun’s photographs for Le Coeur de Pic. The recurring image of the hand is not inappropriate for work involving ‘the lady of the gloves’, as the poetess, Lise Deharme (née Anne-Marie Hirtz) was known in 1930s. The muse of the surrealist movement, she featured as Lise Meyer, ‘la femme aux gants bleu ciel’ in Breton’s 1928 novel Nadja.”
“She focuses upon themes which are highly en vogue in the interwar avant-garde milieux, and which, under the sign of postmodernism, have dominated discourses on sex and gender, the mise en scène of the self and gender performance over the last twenty years. Subscribing to the Surrealist notion of ars combinatoria by illustrating it in their creations from the 1920s and 1930s, Cahun, Moore and Deharme’s aesthetic approach gives birth to object books transformed, under the influence of the principles of collage and montage, to plural book-objects, that is, to Surrealist books.” [Andrea Oberhuber (2007) Claude Cahun, Marcel Moore, Lise Deharme and the Surrealist book, History of Photography, 31:1, 40-56.]
OCLC locates ten copies in American institutions. Item #1949