Cécile and Nusch Éluard (Primary Title)
Nusch Éluard (1906–1946) was born Maria Benz in Mulhouse, a city in eastern France that was then part of Germany. She received the affectionate nickname Nusch, which means nut or walnut, from her father. Growing up in a family that worked in the circus, Nusch was a natural stage performer, earning her living as an actress, acrobat, and hypnotist’s assistant. On May 21, 1930, she had a chance encounter on a train with the Surrealist poet Paul Éluard, who was struck by her radiant beauty and her fascinating life story. The couple married in 1934 and she inspired many of his subsequent poems. In 1935 she collaborated with Man Ray and her husband on an illustrated book entitled Facile (Easy). The publication contains eleven photogravures of the American artist’s solarized nude photographs of Nusch alongside love poems by Éluard, whose words cling sensuously to the contours of her body in a dynamic and highly creative typographic layout. Made the following year, this double portrait depicts Nusch and Cécile, Paul Éluard’s teenage daughter from his first marriage. The photograph reveals the close friendship and tenderness between Cécile and her stepmother.
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