Sheelagh Bevan, our Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator of Printed Books and Bindings, discusses Blaise Cendrars, born Frédéric Louis Sauser, a catalyst in some of the explosive artistic innovations of the early twentieth century. An intrepid spirit, he left his Swiss homeland at age seventeen. In Saint Petersburg and New York, he wrote his first poems and transformed into Blaise Cendrars—a name symbolizing his aesthetic goals: to burn and to create poetry from the ashes of his life.
Cendrars made his mark in Paris in 1913 with an experimental travel poem, La prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France (The Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jeanne of France), self-published in a spectacular vertical format with illustrations by the Ukrainian-born painter Sonia Delaunay-Terk (1885–1979). Through his subsequent experiences as a traveler, soldier, and collaborator with artists across many mediums, Cendrars developed a poetic philosophy to embody modernity’s rhythms, technologies, contrasts, and depth.
Video by SandenWolff.