Guillaume Apollinaire

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Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire foto.jpg
Photograph of Guillaume Apollinaire in spring 1916 after a shrapnel wound to his temple
BornWilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki
(1880-08-26)26 August 1880
Rome, Italy
Died9 November 1918(1918-11-09) (aged 38)
Paris, France
OccupationPoet, writer, art critic
Signature Guillaume Apollinaire signature.svg
Kostrowicki family's coat-of-arms POL COA Waz.svg
Kostrowicki family's coat-of-arms

Guillaume Apollinaire (French:  [ɡijom apɔlinɛʁ] ; 26 August 1880 – 9 November 1918) was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic of Polish-Belarusian descent.


Apollinaire is considered one of the foremost poets of the early 20th century, as well as one of the most impassioned defenders of Cubism and a forefather of Surrealism. He is credited with coining the term "Cubism" [1] in 1911 to describe the emerging art movement, the term Orphism in 1912, and the term "Surrealism" in 1917 to describe the works of Erik Satie. He wrote poems without punctuation attempting to be resolutely modern in both form and subject. [2] Apollinaire wrote one of the earliest Surrealist literary works, the play The Breasts of Tiresias (1917), which became the basis for Francis Poulenc's 1947 opera Les mamelles de Tirésias .

Influenced by Symbolist poetry in his youth, he was admired during his lifetime by the young poets who later formed the nucleus of the Surrealist group (Breton, Aragon, Soupault). He revealed very early on an originality that freed him from any school influence and made him one of the precursors of the literary revolution of the first half of the 20th century. His art is not based on any theory, but on a simple principle: the act of creating must come from the imagination, from intuition, because it must be as close as possible to life, to nature, to the environment, and to the human being.

Apollinaire was also active as a journalist and art critic for Le Matin , L'Intransigeant , L'Esprit nouveau, Mercure de France , and Paris Journal. In 1912 Apollinaire cofounded Les Soirées de Paris , an artistic and literary magazine.

Two years after being wounded in World War I, Apollinaire died during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and was declared "Dead for France" (Mort pour la France) because of his commitment during the war. [3]


Apollinaire (left) and André Rouveyre in 1914
Apollinaire, 1902, Cologne Guillaume Apollinaire, 1902, Cologne.jpg
Apollinaire, 1902, Cologne

Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki was born in Rome, Italy, and was raised speaking French, Italian, and Polish. [4] He emigrated to France in his late teens and adopted the name Guillaume Apollinaire. His mother, born Angelika Kostrowicka, was a Polish noblewoman born near Navahrudak, Grodno Governorate (present-day Belarus). His maternal grandfather was a general in the Russian Imperial Army who was killed in the Crimean War. Apollinaire's father is unknown but may have been Francesco Costantino Camillo Flugi d'Aspermont (born 1835), a Graubünden aristocrat who disappeared early from Apollinaire's life. Francesco Flugi von Aspermont was a nephew of Conradin Flugi d'Aspermont (1787–1874), a poet who wrote in ladin putèr (an official language dialect of Switzerland spoken in Engiadina ota), and perhaps also of the Minnesänger Oswald von Wolkenstein (born c. 1377, died 2 August 1445; see Les ancêtres Grisons du poète Guillaume Apollinaire at Généanet).

Apollinaire eventually moved from Rome to Paris [5] and became one of the most popular members of the artistic community of Paris (both in Montmartre and Montparnasse). His friends and collaborators in that period included Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, André Salmon, André Breton, André Derain, Faik Konitza, Blaise Cendrars, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Pierre Reverdy, Alexandra Exter, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp and Jean Metzinger. He became romantically involved with Marie Laurencin, who is often identified as his muse. While there, he dabbled in anarchism and spoke out as a Dreyfusard in defense of Dreyfus's innocence. [6]

Metzinger painted the first Cubist portrait of Apollinaire. In his Vie anecdotique (16 October 1911), the poet proudly writes: "I am honoured to be the first model of a Cubist painter, Jean Metzinger, for a portrait exhibited in 1910 at the Salon des Indépendants." It was not only the first Cubist portrait, according to Apollinaire, but it was also the first great portrait of the poet exhibited in public, prior to others by Louis Marcoussis, Amedeo Modigliani, Mikhail Larionov and Picasso. [7]

"La Joconde est Retrouvee" (The Mona Lisa is Found), Le Petit Parisien, No. 13559, 13 December 1913 Mona Lisa Found, La Joconde est Retrouvee, Le Petit Parisien, Numero 13559, 13 December 1913.jpg
"La Joconde est Retrouvée" (The Mona Lisa is Found), Le Petit Parisien, No. 13559, 13 December 1913

In 1911 he joined the Puteaux Group, a branch of the Cubist movement soon to be known as the Section d'Or. The opening address of the 1912 Salon de la Section d'Or—the most important pre-World War I Cubist exhibition—was given by Apollinaire. [8] [9]

On 7 September 1911, police arrested and jailed him on suspicion of aiding and abetting the theft of the Mona Lisa and a number of Egyptian statuettes from the Louvre, [4] [10] but released him a week later. The theft of the statues had been committed in 1907 by a former secretary of Apollinaire, Honoré Joseph Géry Pieret, who had recently returned one of the stolen statues to the French newspaper the Paris-Journal. [11] Apollinaire implicated his friend Picasso, who had bought Iberian statues from Pieret, and who was also brought in for questioning in the theft of the Mona Lisa, but he was also exonerated. [12] [11] The theft of the Mona Lisa was perpetrated by Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian house painter who acted alone and was only caught two years later when he tried to sell the painting in Florence.


Jean Metzinger, 1911, Etude pour le portrait de Guillaume Apollinaire, graphite on paper, 48 x 31.2 cm, Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris Jean Metzinger, 1911, Etude pour le portrait de Guillaume Apollinaire, Mine graphite sur papier verge rose, 48 x 31.2 cm, Musee national d'Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.jpg
Jean Metzinger, 1911, Étude pour le portrait de Guillaume Apollinaire, graphite on paper, 48 × 31.2 cm, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Apollinaire wrote the preface for the first Cubist exposition outside of Paris; VIII Salon des Indépendants, Brussels, 1911. [13] In an open-handed preface to the catalogue of the Brussels Indépendants show, Apollinaire stated that these 'new painters' accepted the name of Cubists which has been given to them. He described Cubism as a new manifestation and high art [manifestation nouvelle et très élevée de l'art], not a system that constrains talent [non-point un système contraignant les talents], and the differences which characterize not only the talents but even the styles of these artists are an obvious proof of this. [14] [15] The artists involved with this new movement, according to Apollinaire, included Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, and Henri Le Fauconnier. [16] By 1912 others had joined the Cubists: Jacques Villon, Marcel Duchamp, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Francis Picabia, Juan Gris, and Roger de La Fresnaye, among them. [14] [17] [18] [19]


The term Orphism was coined by Apollinaire at the Salon de la Section d'Or in 1912, referring to the works of Robert Delaunay and František Kupka. During his lecture at the Section d'Or exhibit Apollinaire presented three of Kupka's abstract works as perfect examples of pure painting, as anti-figurative as music. [18]

In Les Peintres Cubistes, Méditations Esthétiques (1913) Apollinaire described Orphism as "the art of painting new totalities with elements that the artist does not take from visual reality, but creates entirely by himself. [...] An Orphic painter's works should convey an untroubled aesthetic pleasure, but at the same time a meaningful structure and sublime significance. According to Apollinaire Orphism represented a move towards a completely new art-form, much as music was to literature. [20]


The term Surrealism was first used by Apollinaire concerning the ballet Parade in 1917. The poet Arthur Rimbaud wanted to be a visionary, to perceive the hidden side of things within the realm of another reality. In continuity with Rimbaud, Apollinaire went in search of a hidden and mysterious reality. The term "surrealism" appeared for the first time in March 1917 (Chronologie de Dada et du surréalisme, 1917) in a letter by Apollinaire to Paul Dermée: "All things considered, I think in fact it is better to adopt surrealism than supernaturalism, which I first used" [Tout bien examiné, je crois en effet qu'il vaut mieux adopter surréalisme que surnaturalisme que j'avais d'abord employé]. [21]

He described Parade as "a kind of surrealism" (une sorte de surréalisme) when he wrote the program note the following week, thus coining the word three years before Surrealism emerged as an art movement in Paris. [22]

World War I

Apollinaire served as an infantry officer in World War I and, in 1916, received a serious shrapnel wound to the temple, from which he would never fully recover. [5] He wrote Les Mamelles de Tirésias while recovering from this wound. During this period he coined the word "Surrealism" in the programme notes for Jean Cocteau's and Erik Satie's ballet Parade , first performed on 18 May 1917. He also published an artistic manifesto, L'Esprit nouveau et les poètes. Apollinaire's status as a literary critic is most famous and influential in his recognition of the Marquis de Sade, whose works were for a long time obscure, yet arising in popularity as an influence upon the Dada and Surrealist art movements going on in Montparnasse at the beginning of the twentieth century as, "The freest spirit that ever existed."

The war-weakened Apollinaire died at the age of 38 on 9 November 1918 of influenza during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 ravaging Europe at the time, two years after being wounded in World War I. [5] Due to his military service for the duration of the war, he was declared "Dead for France" (Mort pour la France) by the French government. [3] He was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.


In 1900 he wrote his first novel Mirely, ou le petit trou pas cher (pornographic), which was eventually lost. [5] Apollinaire's first collection of poetry was L'enchanteur pourrissant (1909), but Alcools (1913) established his reputation. The poems, influenced in part by the Symbolists, juxtapose the old and the new, combining traditional poetic forms with modern imagery. In 1913, Apollinaire published the essay Les Peintres Cubistes, Méditations Esthétiques on the Cubist painters, a movement which he helped to define. He also coined the term orphism to describe a tendency towards absolute abstraction in the paintings of Robert Delaunay and others.

In 1907 Apollinaire published the well-known erotic novel, The Eleven Thousand Rods (Les Onze Mille Verges). [23] [24] Officially banned in France until 1970, various printings of it circulated widely for many years. Apollinaire never publicly acknowledged authorship of the novel. Another erotic novel attributed to him was The Exploits of a Young Don Juan (Les exploits d'un jeune Don Juan), in which the 15-year-old hero fathers three children with various members of his entourage, including his aunt. [25] [26] Apollinaire's gift to Picasso of the original 1907 manuscript was one of the artist's most prized possessions. [27] The book was made into a movie in 1987.

Shortly after his death, Mercure de France published Calligrammes , a collection of his concrete poetry (poetry in which typography and layout adds to the overall effect), and more orthodox, though still modernist poems informed by Apollinaire's experiences in the First World War and in which he often used the technique of automatic writing.

In his youth Apollinaire lived for a short while in Belgium, mastering the Walloon dialect sufficiently to write poetry, some of which has survived.





Apollinaire is played by Seth Gabel in the 2018 television series Genius , which focuses on the life and work of Pablo Picasso.

See also

References and sources

  1. Daniel Robbins, 1964, Albert Gleizes 1881 – 1953, A Retrospective Exhibition, Published by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, in collaboration with Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund
  2. Judge, Harry George; Toyne, Anthony, eds. (1985–1993). Oxford illustrated encyclopedia. Oxford University Press. p. 18. ISBN   0-19-869129-7. OCLC   11814265.
  3. 1 2 Catherine Moore, Mark Moore, Guillaume Apollinaire official website, Biographie: Chronologie, Western Illinois University
  4. 1 2 "Газетные "старости" (Архив)". 9 January 1907. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 4 John Baxter (10 February 2009). Carnal Knowledge: Baxter's Concise Encyclopedia of Modern Sex . HarperCollins. p.  13. ISBN   978-0-06-087434-6 . Retrieved 24 December 2011.
  6. Claude Schumacher, Alfred Jarry and Guillaume Apollinaire, Modern Dramatists, Macmillan International Higher Education, 1984, pp. 4, 14, 23, 148, 168, ISBN   1349173282
  7. Jean Metzinger, 1910, Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire, Christie's Paris, 2007.
  8. La Section d'Or, Numéro spécial, 9 Octobre 1912.
  9. The History and Chronology of Cubism Archived 14 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine , p. 5.
  10. "Un homme de lettres connu est arrêté comme recéleur", Le Petit Parisien, 9 September 1911 (in French).
  11. 1 2 Krauss, Rosalind (2016). "1911". In Hal Foster; Rosalind E. Krauss; Yve-Alain Bois; B. H. D. Buchloh; David Joselit (eds.). Art since 1900: modernism, antimodernism, postmodernism (Third ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. p. 118. ISBN   978-0-500-23953-7. OCLC   958112079.
  12. Richard Lacayo, "Art's Great Whodunit: The Mona Lisa Theft of 1911", Time, 27 April 2009.
  13. Préface, in Catalogue du 8e Salon annuel du Cercle d'art Les Indépendants, Musée moderne de Bruxelles, 10 June – 3 July 1911.
  14. 1 2 Douglas Cooper, 1971, Douglas Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y., 1970, p. 97
  15. Françoise Roberts-Jones, Chronique d'un musée: Musée royal des beaux-arts de Belgique, Bruxelles.
  16. Daniel Robbins, 1985, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, Jean Metzinger: At the Center of Cubism, University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, J. Paul Getty Trust, University of Washington Press, pp. 9–23
  17. Apollinaire, Guillaume (7 August 1913). Les peintres cubistes. Première série. Tous les arts. Eugène Figuière et cie, éditeurs via Library Catalog.
  18. 1 2 Guillaume Apollinaire, Les Peintres Cubistes (The Cubist Painters) published in 1913, Peter Read (Translator), University of California Press, 25 October 2004
  19. Herschel Browning Chipp, Peter Selz, Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, University of California Press, 1968, pp. 221–248, ISBN   0-520-01450-2
  20. Hajo Düchting, Orphism, MoMA, From Grove Art Online, 2009 Oxford University Press.
  21. Jean-Paul Clébert, Dictionnaire du surréalisme, A.T.P. & Le Seuil, Chamalières, p. 17, 1996.
  22. Hargrove, Nancy (1998). "The Great Parade: Cocteau, Picasso, Satie, Massine, Diaghilev—and T.S. Eliot". Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 31 (1)
  23. Patrick J. Kearney, A History of Erotic Literature, 1982, pp. 163–164
  24. Karín Lesnik-Oberstein, The last taboo: women and body hair, Manchester University Press, 2006, ISBN   0-7190-7500-9, p.94
  25. Neil Cornwell, The Absurd in Literature, Manchester University Press, 2006, ISBN   0-7190-7410-X, pp.86–87
  26. Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years: the arts in France, 1885–1918: Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, Guillaume Apollinaire, Doubleday, 1961, p. 268.
  27. Golding, John (1994). Visions of the Modern. p.  109. ISBN   0520087925.
  28. Action: Cahiers Individualistes De Philosophie Et D’art, October 1920, Blue Mountain Project, Princeton University

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<i>Du "Cubisme"</i>

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<i>La Chasse</i> (Gleizes)

La Chasse, also referred to as The Hunt, is a painting created in 1911 by the French artist, theorist and writer Albert Gleizes. The work was exhibited at the 1911 Salon d'Automne ; Jack of Diamonds, Moscow, 1912; the Salon de la Société Normande de Peinture Moderne, Rouen, summer 1912; the Salon de la Section d'Or, Galerie La Boétie, 1912, Le Cubisme, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1953, and several major exhibitions during subsequent years.

<i>Femme à lÉventail</i>

Femme à l'Éventail is an oil painting created in 1912 by the French artist and theorist Jean Metzinger (1883–1956). The painting was exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, 1912, Paris, and De Moderne Kunstkring, 1912, Amsterdam. It was also exhibited at the Musée Rath, Geneva, Exposition de cubistes français et d'un groupe d'artistes indépendants, 3–15 June 1913. A 1912 photograph of Femme à l'Éventail hanging on a wall inside the Salon Bourgeois was published in The Sun, 10 November 1912. The same photograph was reproduced in The Literary Digest, 30 November 1912.

<i>Le Fumeur</i>

Le Fumeur, or Man with Pipe, is a Cubist painting by the French artist Jean Metzinger. It has been suggested that the sitter depicted in the painting represents either Guillaume Apollinaire or Max Jacob. The work was exhibited in the spring of 1914 at the Salon des Indépendants, Paris, Champ-de-Mars, March 1–April 30, 1914, no. 2289, Room 11. A photograph of Le Fumeur was published in Le Petit Comtois, 13 March 1914, for the occasion of the exhibition. In July 1914 the painting was exhibited in Berlin at Herwarth Walden’s Galerie Der Sturm, with works by Albert Gleizes, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Jacques Villon.

<i>The Cubist Painters, Aesthetic Meditations</i>

Les Peintres Cubistes, Méditations Esthétiques, is a book written by Guillaume Apollinaire between 1905 and 1912, published in 1913. This was the third major text on Cubism; following Du "Cubisme" by Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger (1912); and André Salmon, Histoire anecdotique du cubisme (1912).

<i>The Spring</i> 1912 painting by Francis Picabia

The Spring is a large oil painting created in 1912 by the French artist Francis Picabia. The work, both Cubist and abstract, was exhibited in Paris at the Salon d'Automne of 1912. The Cubist contribution to the 1912 Salon d'Automne created a controversy in the Municipal Council of Paris, leading to a debate in the Chambre des Députés about the use of public funds to provide the venue for such 'barbaric' art. The Cubists were defended by the Socialist deputy, Marcel Sembat. This painting was realized as Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger, in preparation for the Salon de la Section d'Or, published a major defence of Cubism, resulting in the first theoretical essay on the new movement, Du «Cubisme». The painting forms part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.