“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, February 17, 1922, Closerie des Lilas, 171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris

This is a disaster.

French writer and Dada co-founder Andre Breton, about to turn 26, had wanted an evening of intellectual debate among his fellow avant-garde artists and writers on the Left Bank. But just by announcing the “International Congress for the Determination and Defence of the Modern Spirit” last month in the magazine Comoedia, he stirred up their passions. So Breton decided that, rather than wait until March as originally planned, he would hold the Congress now, here at the Closerie, one of their favorite cafes.

Closerie des Lilas

His so-called friends have turned this evening into a rant against Breton. He had begged Romanian-French poet Tristan Tzara, 25, to bring his followers in the Dada movement along. Tzara refused.

Breton is pleased with the artists who have come:  American painter Man Ray, 31; French artist Jean Cocteau, 32; Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 40; Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi, about to turn 46; French composer Erik Satie, 55.

But now they have turned against him—just because he criticized Tzara and Dadaism.

Breton has settled into a regular bourgeois lifestyle. He and his wife of four months have rented a flat that has become a gathering place in the evenings for the avant-garde of Paris. He wants to have philosophical debates—Is a top hat more or less modern than a locomotive, for example—but all these people want to do is scream at each other.

Andre Breton by Man Ray

Breton is already planning his next manifesto for Comoedia to be titled  “After Dada.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Tonight! We will be celebrating the belated 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgher Gertrude Stein at 7 pm, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. You can register to come to this free event or watch it via Zoom, here

Next week I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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

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

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, end of July, 1921, 12 rue de Boulainvilliers, Paris

From the day he arrived in Paris, just a week or so ago, American ex-patriate artist Man Ray, 30, has been introduced to the most interesting creative people in the city.

His friend from their days in New York City, French artist Marcel Duchamp, just turned 34, met him as promised at the Gare St. Lazare upon his arrival. The next day they went to the Dada Café to meet the French legendary lights of that movement:  writer Andre Breton, 25; poet Paul Eluard, also 25; and writer Philippe Soupault, 23, who offered Ray an exhibit at his bookstore this coming fall. Ray has been turning down offers of shows from dealers in Germany and Belgium because it is important to him that his first European show is in Paris.

Surrealists at an exhibit opening, with Philippe Soupault and Andre Breton on the ladder

Duchamp also arranged for a place for Ray to live. The Romanian-French Dada poet Tristan Tzara, 25, is off traveling for three months so Ray has taken over his studio here in Passy. Based on the sign in the window Ray was referring to this as the “Hotel Meuble,” until Duchamp explains that “meuble” means that the rooms are furnished.

12 rue de Boulainvilliers, Passy

Into this cramped space, Ray has managed to squeeze a bed and three large cameras. He develops his photos in the tiny closet.

Ray has already secured a commission to photograph the autumn line of French couturier Paul Poiret, 42, but Ray is actually more interested in sticking to portraiture.

At a party hosted by a wealthy visiting American couple, Ray struck up a conversation with an American writer he has heard a lot about—Gertrude Stein, 47. She has been living in Paris for almost 20 years now, and hosts salons with other ex-pats in her apartment on 27 rue de Fleurus which she shares with her partner, fellow San Franciscan Alice B. Toklas, 44.

Ray told Stein that he would like to photograph her and invited the two women to be the first to visit his little studio.

They are due any minute. As soon as their visit is over, Ray is going to meet up with a fascinating Frenchwoman he also met recently, Alice Prin, 19, known around town as “Kiki, the Queen of Montparnasse.”

Kiki of Montparnasse

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

This fall I will be talking about Writers Salons in Dublin and London before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 versions.

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

“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.