From 26 October to 30 December 2017
The Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France is the extraordinary fusion of four hundred and forty-five lines of free verse by Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961) and the colors of Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). This beautiful work first saw print in November 1913 in Paris and is one of the founding artist’s books of 20th-century modernity.
Sonia and Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) already figured among the pioneering artists of abstraction and were making a name for themselves with work in the vein of their “Contrastes simultanés” (or Simultaneous Contrasts) when they met in January 1913 at Guillaume Apollinaire’s an unknown poet called Blaise Cendrars. The three immediately forged a close friendship. Cendrars had spent several years in Russia and shared with the Russian born and bred Sonia Delaunay a common imagery as well as a love for experimenting with new esthetic forms. By creating together the Prose du Transsibérien, they led the way to a new creative scene of unprecedented freedom of invention, summoning rhythm, movement, and color.
This folding picture-poem measures some two meters long and thirty-six centimeters wide. It follows the imagined rails of the then recently completed Trans-Siberian line in a fantastic saga of exploration and metaphor that crosses the Russian continent before coming to an end in Paris. The intense poetic experience Blaise Cendrars puts into words is simultaneously visualized by Sonia Delaunay, renewing both the dynamics and the meaning of the journey. A formal and graphic revolution is at work in this piece, placing the two artists at the very heart of Europe’s avant-garde movements, for which the year 1913 is a greatly emblematic, coming just before the slaughter of the war.
Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay | La Prose du Transsibérien brings together a unique group of archival documents and artworks (including three copies of the Prose) to tell the story of this now iconic “first simultaneous book” and its solar character. From the origins of the artist’s book and its complete production process to its reception then and in the years since, between controversy and a growing consensus about its visual and poetic quality, the exhibition displays the kaleidoscope of a revolutionary artistic path.
Curation Dr. Christine Le Quellec Cottier, teaching and research fellow at the University of Lausanne, director of the Centre d’études Blaise Cendrars
Show opens to the general public Wednesday 25 October at 6:30 pm
Show runs from 26 October to 30 December 2017
Opening hours Tuesday to Friday, 2 pm – 6 pm ǀ Saturday and Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm
Admission CHF 5.- (full price) ǀ CHF 3.- (students, groups, retirees, unemployed, disabled persons) ǀ free for children under 18 and residents of Montricher