Marcel Moore

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Marcel Moore
Moore by Claude Cahun
Suzanne Alberte Malherbe

(1892-07-19)19 July 1892
Nantes, France
Died19 February 1972(1972-02-19) (aged 79)
Resting placeSt Brelade's Church
49°11′03″N 2°12′10″W / 49.1841°N 2.2029°W / 49.1841; -2.2029
Known forIllustrator, designer, and photographer

Marcel Moore (born Suzanne Alberte Malherbe, 19 July 1892 – 19 February 1972) was a French illustrator, designer, and photographer. She, along with her romantic and creative partner Claude Cahun, was a surrealist writer and photographer.[1]

Early life[edit]

Moore was born Suzanne Alberte Malherbe in Nantes, France on 19 July 1892,[2] and studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Nantes. In 1909, at age seventeen, Malherbe met fifteen-year-old Lucy Schwob and began a lifelong artistic collaboration.[3] Malherbe's widowed mother married Schwob's divorced father in 1917. Curator Tirza True Latimer has theorized that this step-sister relationship not only encouraged the young women's creative collaborations but also facilitated their romantic relationship.[3] Between 1920 and 1937, they lived in Paris, where they became involved with the surrealism movement and contributed to avant-garde theater activities.[4] They took male pseudonyms: Malherbe became Marcel Moore, and Schwob became Claude Cahun.[5] They remained together until Cahun's death in 1954.[5]


In her early twenties Moore worked as a graphic designer, producing ornate illustrations influenced by the japonism trend and the Paris fashion scene of the 1910s.[2] Her modern fashion designs were published in the newspaper Phare de la Loire, owned by the Schwob family.[6] She also collaborated with the poet Marc-Adolphe Guégan, producing illustrations for two of his books: L'Invitation à la fête primitive (1921) and Oya-Insula ou l'Enfant à la conque (1923).[7]

Moore is best known as Claude Cahun's collaborator. Cahun's photographic oeuvre, all but forgotten for a few decades, was rediscovered in the 1980s and interpreted as a predecessor of Cindy Sherman's theatrical self-portraits.[8] However, recent scholarship suggests that Moore was not only a muse but also had an active hand in the creation of some of Cahun's best-known works. In an essay for the 2005–2006 exhibition Acting Out: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, curator Tirza True Latimer argues that Cahun's photographs are not so much "self-portraits" as collaborations with Moore.[3] At times, they photographed each other posing alternately in the same tableau.[3] Moore's shadow is visible in some photographs of Cahun, making visible her own role behind the camera.[3]

Moore illustrated Cahun's creative writing on several occasions. For Cahun's 1919 poetry volume Vues et visions, Moore created pen-and-ink illustrations similar to the decorative style of Aubrey Beardsley.[6] Moore was the subject of Cahun's dedication, "I dedicate this puerile prose to you, so that the entire book will belong to you and in this way your designs may redeem my text in our eyes."[6] In 1930 Cahun and Moore published a second book of verses and illustrations called Aveux non avenus (translated as "disavowed confessions"). Moore's illustrations for this work consist of collaged images assembled from her many photographs of Cahun, dealing with many of the same themes of identity that can be read in Cahun's own photography and poetry.[6]


In 1937 Moore and Cahun moved from Paris to Jersey, possibly to escape the increasing anti-Semitism and political upheavals leading up to World War II. They remained on the island of Jersey when German troops invaded in 1940. For several years, the two risked their lives by distributing anti-Nazi propaganda to the German soldiers.[9] Moore was fluent in German, and was able to translate the secret notes and messages that she and Cahun composed into German, in hopes of fooling the occupation troops into believing that there was a conspiracy on the island.  She was often the one to take the most significant risks, slipping her notes into pockets of German soldiers or leaving them in German staff cars.[10] As historian Jeffrey H. Jackson writes in his definitive study of their wartime resistance Paper Bullets, for Cahun and Moore, "fighting the German occupation of Jersey was the culmination of lifelong patterns of resistance, which had always borne a political edge in the cause of freedom as they carved out their own rebellious way of living in the world together.  For them, the political was always deeply personal."[11] Despite having reverted to their original names and introducing themselves as sisters in Jersey, their resistance activities were discovered in 1944, and they were sentenced to death and imprisoned. They were saved by the Liberation of Jersey in 1945, but their home and property had been confiscated and much of their art destroyed by the Germans.

Later life[edit]

Claude Cahun's health suffered during her wartime imprisonment; Cahun died in 1954, after which Moore relocated to a smaller home.[2] Moore died by suicide in 1972.[2] She was buried alongside her partner Cahun in St Brelade's Church.


In 2018, a street of Paris, close to the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs where Marcel and Claude lived, took the name of "allée Claude Cahun–Marcel Moore"[12] in the 6th district of the French capital.

Street sign 'allée Claude Cahun-Marcel Moore' 6th arrondissement of Paris

Bibliography (English)[edit]

  • Jeffrey H. Jackson, Paper Bullets:  Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis.  New York:  Algonquin Books, 2020. ISBN 978-1-61620-916-2


  1. ^ Cottingham, Laura (1996). "Notes on 'lesbian.' – historical narrative of lesbianism – We're Here: Gay and Lesbian Presence in Art and Art History". Art Journal. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d Downie, Louise (2005). "Sans Nom: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore" (PDF). Heritage Magazine. 2005: 8–9. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Latimer, Tirza True. "Acting Out: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore". Queer Cultural Center. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  4. ^ Villareal, Jose (ed.). "Acting Out: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore". Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b Solomon-Godeau, Abigail (1999). "The Equivocal "I": Claude Cahun as Lesbian Subject". In Rice, Shelley (ed.). Inverted Odysseys: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Cindy Sherman. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. p. 116. ISBN 0262681064.
  6. ^ a b c d Latimer, Tirza True (2005). Women Together/Women Apart: Portraits of Lesbian Paris. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. pp. 76–80, 137–140. ISBN 0-8135-3594-8.
  7. ^ "Illustration by Marcel Moore for Oya-Insula ou l'Enfant à la Conque by Marc-Adolphe Guégan".
  8. ^ Chadwick, Whitney (1998). Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. p. 67. ISBN 0262531577.
  9. ^ Smith, Katherine. "Claude Cahun as Anti-Nazi Resistance Fighter". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  10. ^ Jackson, Jeffrey (2020). Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis. New York: Algonquin Books. p. 160. ISBN 978-1616209162.
  11. ^ Jackson, Jeffrey (2020). Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis. New York: Algonquin Books. pp. 267–68. ISBN 978-1616209162.
  12. ^ "Conseil de Paris".

External links[edit]