“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, mid-April, 1921, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York

Photographer and painter Man Ray, 30, is proud of his latest work.

He and his friend, painter and surrealist Marcel Duchamp, 33, have produced the first issue of a magazine, New York Dada.

They put a lot of effort into it, particularly the cover. To the uninitiated, it is a small photo of a perfume bottle, Belle Helaine, Eau de Voilette, with a not particularly attractive woman on the label.

New York Dada, issue #1

But their friends in Greenwich Village would recognize “her” as Rrose Selavy, one of the many pseudonyms Duchamp uses. In French the name sounds like “Eros, c’est la vie,” which translates as “Eros, such is life,” or even “arroser la vie” meaning “to toast to life.” Duchamp had the original idea and together they dressed him in a coy hat and makeup for the photo Ray took.

Rrose Selavy

The surreal theme continues inside with a picture of one of their surreal friends, artist and writer Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, 46, whose poetry has appeared in The Little Review magazine.

Self-portrait by Man Ray

Although Dada in the United States has developed separately from its European counterpart, Ray and Duchamp have managed to include in the issue a letter from the founder of the European movement, Tristan Tzara, about to turn 25, giving them permission to use the name “Dada” for their magazine. In his letter Tzara says,

Dada belongs to everybody…like the idea of God or the tooth-brush…[There] is nothing more incomprehensible than Dada. Nothing more indefinable.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I, covering 1920, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats. 

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.