Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happyGuillaume Apollinaire
French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire was one of the most popular and influential poet and art critic of the early 20th century in Paris. He is considered by some to be one of the foremost poets of that time, and he is credited with coining the term “Cubism” in 1911 and the term “Surrealism” in 1917.
Born Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki on August 26, 1880 in Rome, Italy. His mother was a Polish noblewoman whose father was a general in the Russian Imperial Army. The identity of his father is unknown, speculation included aristocrats, army officers and cardinals, and his friends, including Pablo Picasso, joked that his father was the Pope himself. He was raised speaking French, Italian, and Polish, and spent his youth traveling Europe, and in his late teens he emigrated from Rome to France and adopted the name Guillaume Apollinaire. In Paris he became one of the most popular members of the artists community. His friends and collaborators included Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Gertrude Stein, Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp.
During his lifetime he published a dozen volumes of poetry, and a dozen novels as well. In1907 he published The Eleven Thousand Rods (Les Onze Mille Verges), a well known erotic novel, although he never publicly acknowledged authorship. He also wrote The Exploits of a Young Don Juan (Les Exploits D’Un Jeune Don Juan) a 1907 manuscript of which was given to Pablo Picasso and held as his prized possession.
Apollinaire’s first poetry collection, L’enchanteur pourrissant, was published in 1909, and in 1913 what is considered his most important collection, Alcools: Poems, was published.
In 1907 Apollinaire was introduced to Cubist painter Marie Laurencin at the opening of her debut exhibit. Both the children of single mothers, the pair were lovers for six years and acted as each other’s muse. They lived apart and never married, an outward rejection of the bourgeois convention. They broke up as a result of Apollinaire’s reputation for philandering, Laurencin marrying another man, although upon her death in 1956 she was buried with his love letters in her hand upon her request.
In 1911 he was imprisoned for six days when he was wrongfully connected to the theft of the Mona Lisa.
He served as an infantry officer during WWI, and in 1916 received a shrapnel wound to his temple from which he never fully recovered. Apollinaire his famous lecture “L’esprit nouveau et les poetes,” in 1917 which was published as his poetic manifesto. It was a modern art manifesto in which he called for pure invention and a total surrender to inspiration.
On May 2nd, 1918 he married Jacqueline Kolb, and shortly after he died on November 9th, 1918, at the age of 38, from influenza during the Spanish flu pandemic that was ravaging Europe at the time.
Lesson from Apollinaire:
Apollinaire’s vitality and his constant readiness to take personal and artistic risks influenced a century of artists after him. He looked for and created inspiration in both the world and the people he surrounded himself by. He fed off lust and beauty and art and threw it all back into the world in an artists skillful translation, to inspire and guide us even a hundred years after his death.
Lust is a big part of it. Don’t let the fire go out – kindle it for good. For Art. For Beauty. Let your own soul greedily eat those flames. Your own fire won’t burn you, but will sustain you.
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