Liberated: The Radical Art and Life of Claude Cahun

Getty. Sept. 2023. 96p. ISBN 9781947440074. $19.95. BIOG
This moody graphic novel chronicles the life, art, and anti-fascist activism of Claude Cahun, who was born as Lucy Schwob. Cahun’s name change was an act of resistance on two levels, as it not only presented as masculine but was a purposeful shift to an undeniably Jewish identity. In 1920s Paris, Cahun rose to prominence as a surrealist photographer, alongside their lifelong love, Marcel Moore, also called Suzanne Malherbe. Cahun’s art, peppered throughout, was known for exploring gender identity beyond the realm of social constraints. As fascism and antisemitism’s grasp on Europe became increasingly aggressive in the 1930s, Cahun and Moore used art as a tool of opposition. In fact, their boldest campaign occurred on the island of Jersey during its Nazi occupation. Cahun and Moore utilized covert and innovative methods to undermine the German soldiers, though this ultimately had dire consequences for both. Rowe’s dreamy gray-lavender illustrations and depictions of tempestuous water levels convey both the beauty and despair of these artists’ lives.
VERDICT Rowe’s biography portrays a triumph of queer and Jewish resistance in the face of fascism and stands as a tribute to the love that surrounded the lives of Cahun and Moore, not just for each other but for humanity.
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