Blue as an Orange

By Alba Arikha

The hidden histories of Bohemian men and women who are little known in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

BLUE AS AN ORANGE: on the road with the Bohemians

Dear Friends,

An enormous thank you to those who have supported my book. I’m truly grateful. The book has reached 19% and is starting to take shape. 

To those of you who have expressed interest but haven't pledged yet, here is some more information about BLUE AS AN ORANGE, in case you decide you’d like to support it.

This project is one I’ve wanted to embark upon for years - and I’m delighted I now have the opportunity to do so. I’ve often wondered about those men and women around the world, whose creative output was just as important as that of their French and English counterparts but who, because of where they lived, have remained unknown to us.  Once I started reading about them, I could not stop. Choosing the countries which would best represent them was a difficult task - why Russia and not Japan? Why Brazil and not Uruguay? Why not include Portugal and Spain? There are two answers to this:  the first one is that there are only so many countries I can talk about. But in certain of them - Norway, Brazil, Africa, Greece and Italy among others  - the influence of surrealism, and the radical effect it had on these Bohemians, resulted in a larger and more contagious response than it did did in other places (Japan and Portugal for example).Those responsible for that contagion forever changed the way art was perceived.They were penniless, talented outlaws who would establish their own rules – and the more radical the better. As I mention in my introduction, every decade thereafter produced another movement of sorts, picking up where the previous one had left off, adapting it into its national zeitgeist.

I’m now knee-deep in Paris, where the zeitgeist began. The poet and artist Max Jacob is sharing a tiny flat with Picasso, on the Boulevard Voltaire. The flat is decrepit, with no running water or electricity, but as Jean Cocteau said, ‘poverty is luxury.’ During the day Picasso paints while Max Jacob pays the bills by working in a department store, delivering packages in a wheelbarrow. On his way back he sometimes visits galleries pretending to be a rich dealer: ‘do you have works by Pablo Picasso?’ he asks, feigning a scandalised response when told that no, they do not. ‘But how could you not? A gallery of your stature? He’s a genius!’


Intimate Picasso Letter Goes on Display in France | Artnet News

Pablo Picasso and Max Jacob in 1901

Needless to say, that relationship became a complicated one, especially after Picasso’s stratospheric rise to stardom.

Italy will be my next port of call. Benedetta Cappa will be leaving her middle-class upbringing in order to become an artist, under the tutelage of Giacomo Balla.  She has embraced the Futurist movement, and married its founder, Filippo Marinetti. But this was before realising that a ’scorn for women’ was part of the groups’ manifesto. How will she cope?

More countries will be added as these months go by and I shall keep you posted as I travel along.

In the meantime I wish you all a very happy summer - and please feel free to share the link!

All the best


Synthesis of Telegraphic and Telephonic Communications - Benedetta Cappa

Benedetta Cappa, Synthethis of Telegraphic and Telephonic Communications - 1933-1934

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