“Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible” May 1968 France

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S950.c.201.1213

“Be realistic, ask the impossible” was one of the many slogans of the French unrest in May-June 1968. May last year was the 50th anniversary of the upheaval, which arouses mixed feelings in French society, depending on the political ideas of each individual. There was a debate in 2017 about Emmanuel Macron’s idea of celebrating May 68, when it had been an anti-governmental, non-institutionalised movement; it certainly led to many cultural events in 2018, including the BnF exhibition: The spirit(s) of May 68. Cambridge University Library purchased many of the publications on May 68 which came out around the time of the anniversary, including 1968 : de grands soirs en petits matins (C214.c.7787) and L’esprit de mai 68 (C205.d.9998). Here we highlight some of the books we have received in the past year or so. Continue reading

Art books from across Europe donated by Professor Nigel Morgan

The generosity of Professor Nigel Morgan to the University Library has been written about before in our blog, in an April 2015 post.  Since then, Professor Morgan’s donations have continued to come in, and the collection only yesterday of the latest batch of treasures provides a good reason for giving an update.

Each book donated by Professor Morgan, Emeritus Honorary Professor of the History of Art in the University of Cambridge and Sandars Reader in 2013-2014, contains a heading in the catalogue record for him as the donor.  An advanced search in iDiscover which combines his authorised form (Morgan, Nigel J.) with the formula former owner and specifying the UL as the holding library brings up at the time of writing well over 900 results.  The latest donation contains nearly 100 volumes, so before long the results will number over 1,000. Continue reading

Barbara Hepworth books and the Bowness collection

One of our department’s significant responsibilities is modern donated collections.  Our blog has chiefly focused on such collections in European languages, but this post looks at one largely in English – the collection of Professor Sir Alan Bowness, former Director of the Tate.  Recent arrivals in the Bowness collection include items from the library of Dame Barbara Hepworth.  These came to us with the aid of Sophie Bowness, the art historian and maternal granddaughter of Dame Barbara.

Hepworth’s signature in Bowness.a.1012

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Wifredo Lam and Aimé Césaire

An exhibition in Trinity College’s Wren Library which runs until 12 June 2018 celebrates the work of the Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, using items from the Wren’s extraordinary Kessler Collection of Artists’ Books.  In this blog post, we look at the University Library’s own holdings of Lam books and related material.

Fata morgana / André Breton ; illustrated by Wifredo Lam

The exhibition focuses on Wifredo Lam’s many collaborations with a wide variety of international artists and writers such as Aimé Césaire, Gherasim Luca, and René Char. The UL’s earliest holding of his work reflects this aspect of his career: a 1969 English translation of André Breton’s poem Fata morgana illustrated by Lam (1990.9.1800). This collaboration dates from the Cuban artist’s time in France from 1938 to 1941, when he met and worked with many of the Surrealists and other leading European writers and artists of the period. However, the artistic exchange between Wifredo Lam and contemporary European art and literature had already begun years before, when he first went to study in Madrid in 1923. We hold a number of titles in French, Spanish and English dealing completely or in part with this side of Lam’s life and work:

  • André Masson : de Marseille à l’exil américain (2016.9.657)
  • Lam et les poètes (S950.b.200.559)
  • Más allá de lo real maravilloso : el surrealismo y el Caribe (400:8.c.200.186)
  • Diálogo de las artes en las vanguardias hispánicas (C213.c.6463)
  • Wifredo Lam and the international avant-garde, 1923-1982 (405:6.b.200.8)
  • The colour of my dreams : the Surrealist revolution in art (S950.b.201.911)

Continue reading

UNOVIS, Vitebsk’s avant-garde Union of the New Art

Front cover

Later this week, on 19 and 20 April, the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, will hold an international conference in Cambridge on The People’s Art School and Unovis in Vitebsk.  Vitebsk, in present-day Belarus, was the home of an extraordinary avant-garde art school at which Marc Chagall (the town’s most famous son), Kazimir Malevich, and El Lissitsky taught.  Many of the artists at the school joined the art union UNOVIS, set up by Malevich.  Unovis stands for Utverditeli novogo iskusstva (Champions of the New Art).

Among the early Soviet treasures in Catherine Cooke’s collection in the University Library is a small and fragile Unovis publication dating from January 1921 and described as the union’s second publication or edition.  On its cover is Malevich’s famous Black Square, with the words “Let the overthrow of the old world of arts be traced out on the palms of your hands” written above it.  The booklet has four sections in it (NB the links below are to Russian Wikipedia entries for the authors):

Back cover

Party membership in art / M. Kunin
Unovis in ateliers / L. Khidekel’
The Architecture Faculty / I. Chashnik
On still life / L. Iudin

On its back cover, the booklet ends with an exhortation: “Comrades! Get ready for the all-Russian spring exhibition of ‘Unovis’ in Moscow”.

Lithographed on poor-quality paper, the booklet is a rather miraculous survivor.  According to the WorldCat and COPAC union catalogues, Cambridge is unique amongst major Western collections in having a copy.  The title can be accessed through the Rare Books Reading Room.  Its classmark is CCC.54.464.

A few spaces remain at the conference this week.  For those interested in attending, please see this page for joining details.

Mel Bach