Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask

 

This beautifully illustrated book draws together for the first time the work of French artist Claude Cahun (1894–1954) and British contemporary artist Gillian Wearing (b. 1963). Although they were born almost a century apart, their work shares similar themes—gender, identity, masquerade, and performance.

 

In 2015, Sarah Howgate traveled with Wearing to the island of Jersey, in the English Channel, where Cahun lived and worked until her death, and where her archive is housed. In examining Cahun's photographs, Wearing was struck by the remarkable parallels with her own explorations of the self-image through photography. Cahun was a contemporary of André Breton and Man Ray, but her work was rarely exhibited during her lifetime. Wearing, who has exhibited extensively and is a recipient of Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize, was no stranger to Cahun’s work when she made the trip to Jersey—her 2012 self-portrait, Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face, is a reconstruction of Cahun’s iconic Self-portrait, made in 1927. In this book, Howgate examines the work of both artists, investigating how their cultural, historical, political, and personal contexts have affected their interpretations of similar themes.

 

This book features stunning reproductions of more than ninety key works, presented thematically by artistic evolution, performance, masquerade, and memento mori, among others. Also included are new works by Wearing, a revealing interview with her by Howgate, and an illuminating essay on Cahun by writer and curator Dawn Ades.

 

Published by National Portrait Gallery, London and Princeton University Press