The Poem as Visual Experience: Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Blaise Cendrars and La Prose du Transsibérien

It was not the art dealers, nor the critics, nor the collectors who made these painters famous, it was the modern poets, and people forget it rather too easily, and so do all these painters who, today, are millionaires and are still indebted to us, the poor poets!1

Sonia Delaunay-Terk and Blaise Cendrars, detail of La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France (1913), Illustrated book with pochoir, case. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, 2016.15.4.1

Blaise Cendrars was remembering a time when the artists were as poor as the poets. Though mythmakers have often reduced the early 20th-century Parisian art mecca of the Bateau-Lavoir and the Lapin Agile to cliché, cliché can’t obscure the fact that it represents one of the most revolutionary moments in art history. And, as Cendrars points out, it is not often acknowledged that poets were a driving force of the revolution.

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  1. Blaise Cendrars, La lotissement du ciel (Paris: Denoël,1949). []