This is CR Muse, a series dedicated to the remembrance of important artists and idea-makers from our past who have shaped culture as we know it today. From traditional creators to those of conceptual thought, we celebrate these women known not only for their work but their confident, eccentric style as well.
One of the most important members of the Surrealist movement in the 1920s and ’30s is better recognized by her face than her name: Nusch Éluard. Married to Surrealist poet Paul Éluard, the French artist and model posed for photographers Lee Miller and Dora Maar, played muse to Man Ray and Pablo Picasso, and frequently wore Schiaparelli. Between her interests and talents, Éluard was a curious figure. But despite her important role in the Surrealist movement, details of her life remain scarce.
Éluard was born Maria Benz in Mulhouse, a city in eastern France, in 1906. There are conflicting stories as to who gave her the nickname “Nusch”—it was either Swiss artist Max Bill or her father—but she took the moniker on for good. Éluard’s parents were said to have been part of the circus, which perhaps later contributed to her working as a part-time acrobat.
At 14, Éluard pursued a career in theater in Berlin. At 22, she moved to Paris and began working, of all things, as a hypnotist’s assistant. Between that, acting, and acrobatics, it is no wonder she was such a captivating presence.
In 1930, Éluard caught the attention of her future husband, Paul, who had just been left by his first wife, Gala, for Salvador Dalí. The two fell in love, and Paul introduced her to his artistic group of friends. But the process of collaborating with the Surrealists had more of an effect on Éluard than simply being immortalized in their paintings and photographs: She began making art of her own.
In the ’30s, Éluard began creating photo collages. The dreamy works featured nudes in occasionally spacey settings and were often organized to tell a story. Her collages proved that she had a creative mind of her own, but for years, the works were misattributed as the work of her husband. It wasn’t until the ‘70s when art dealer Timothy Baum began exhibiting them that she was credited as the artist behind them. Éluard, unfortunately, did not live to see them on display.
Her life was cut short in 1946 when she suffered a stroke and collapsed in the street. She was only 40 years old. Éluard had just spent World War II fighting for the French Resistance when the Nazis occupied the country.
Though her biography, Nusch: Portrait d’une muse du Surréalisme, was finally published in 2010, Éluard still seems to lack the recognition she deserves. A central figure to so many artists should warrant more prominence—after all, the role of a muse is almost never passive. If we’re willing to credit the supermodels of the ’90s with stunning fashion images, equal praise should be bestowed upon Nusch Éluard, the real face of Surrealism.
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/culture/a25220097/cr-muse-nusch-eluard-surrealist-movement/
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