Marcelle Cahn
Year, Birthplace 1895, France
Year, Place of death 1981, France
During adolescence in Strasbourg, Marcelle Cahn began her studies of drawing and painting and learned the violin. At a very young age she discovered Arnold Schoenberg, for whom she developed a great admiration, and became interested in philosophy. From 1915 to 1919, she lived in Berlin, where she was a student of Eugen Spiro (portraits) and Lovis Corinth (life drawings). She moved among artists of the Der Sturm movement, such as Oskar Kokoschka. Her first visit to Paris came in 1920. She frequented the studio of Arraujo and worked on small drawings with geometric forms, influenced by the painting of Paul Cézanne. In 1928, she studied philosophy in Zurich. On her return to Paris she attended the Académie Ranson for two months where she was taught by Édouard Vuillard and, later, the Académie Moderne, where Othon Friesz was a teacher. Two years later, she studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and produced nudes, still lifes, drawings and cubist paintings. She met the dealer Léonce Rosenberg, who put her in contact with Fernand Léger. She worked him at the Académie Moderne and, later, with Amédée Ozenfant. Over just a few years, therefore, Marcelle moved from expressionism to semi-figurative cubism and then from cubism to purism and constructivism. In 1929, Michel Seuphor invited her to join the Cercle et Carré group. Cahn exhibited and met Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber, Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Georges Vantongerloo and Jean Gorin. In 1930, she retired from the public art scene. She drew and painted in Strasbourg and spent short periods in Paris. In 1939, she left Strasbourg with her mother and settled first in Blois and later in Toulouse, where she mixed with local painters, studied philosophy and attended lectures by Abbot Breuil and Father Nicolas on the Christian faith and ecumenism. The death of her mother, in 1945, affected her deeply. After 1947, she renewed her links with Paris and her old friends. She began to create and experiment incessantly, infused with an innovative spirit and sustained by a rich and private inner life. Around1952, she composed linear geometric drawings and collages; around 1953, the reliefs and linear works emerged; around 1957, the photographic collages; around 1960, the spherical and spatial works. The retrospectives organised by the Denise René gallery (1975) and by CNAC in Paris (1972-1974) confirmed her place within abstract painting and the originality of a career concealed by the artist’s modesty. Marcelle Cahn died in Paris in 1981, in a state of poverty which bordered on destitution. AC