Paris, Bizarre

Bizarre, nos. 1-2; new series, nos. 1-46 (Paris, 1953-1968)

Siné's Cover for Bizarre, no. 11/12 (May 1959), a special issue devoted entirely to "Jocondoclastie," or the playful misappropriation (and willful defacement) of the Mona Lisa

Founded by Eric Losfeld–who went on to publish Jean-Claude’s notorious Barbarella comics in the early 1960s–Bizarre lasted for just two issues before falling off the map in 1953. The magazine was soon revived, however,  by

Special Tarzan Issue, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (1962)

Special Tarzan Issue, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (1962)

Jean-Jacques Pauvert and Michel Laclos, who kept its torrent of iconoclastic wit, cultural criticism, and artistic daredevilry running uproariously from 1955 right up to the eve of the Paris uprisings in the spring of 1968. No stranger to controversy, Pauvert made a name for himself in the immediate postwar years publishing (at times clandestine) editions of  Sade. His new bookshop on the Rue Bonaparte was quickly put under police surveillance when it opened  in 1956, just a year after he restarted Bizarre, and the besieged bookseller/ publisher   found himself at the center of the “Affaire

Special Issue on Lettrism, Bizarre no. 32/33 (1964)

Special Issue on Lettrism, Bizarre no. 32/33 (1964)

Sade,” as the French government stepped in to ban the publication and sale of such works. Clashes with authority and public controversy also hounded other contributors to the journal, including its ‘s star illustrator, Siné. An anarchist with sharply anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, and (as many would later find) anti-semitic views, Siné felt pressured to quit his position as political cartoonist for L’Express due to his virulent opposition to the Algerian War, which provoked public outcry from many readers, and for a time in the early sixties he worked on Révolution africaine, a journal financed by the Algerian resistance organization FLN. When the uprisings came in 1968, Siné again joined with Pauvert to found the magazine L’Enragé, an important document of the rebellious spirit of the late sixties and early seventies recently acquired by Beinecke as part of the Philippe Zoummeroff Collection of May 1968 Paris Counterculture.

Channeling undercurrents of political unrest and cultural discontent, as well as a simple delight in mockery, Bizarre became an important artistic expression of the culture of protest that peaked (at

(Cosmetic?) Surgery on the Mona Lisa, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (May 1959)

(Cosmetic?) Surgery on the Mona Lisa, Bizarre, no. 11/12 (May 1959)

least initially) in the revolts of May ’68. Bizarre excelled in the scavenging techniques of détournement and bouleversement wielded by avant-garde poets, artistists, and cultural critics in the Paris of Situationism and Lettrism (one issue of the magazine is entirely devoted to a critical engagement with the latter). Siné’s cut-out design for the cover of Bizarre no. 11/12 (shown at top) cloaks the Mona Lisa (La Joconde) in the garb of a heavily

"Miss Mona Lisa 1957," shown with labels for Mona Lisa brand cheese and cigars and a pin featuring the Eiffel Tower, Bizarre, no 11/12 (May 1959)

"Miss Mona Lisa 1957," shown with labels for Mona Lisa brand cheese and cigars and a pin featuring the Eiffel Tower, Bizarre, no 11/12 (May 1959)

decorated (and heavily wounded) military officer, but inside the covers one finds a medley of playful misappropriation, commercial exploitation, disfigurement, and material destruction. There are paint-by-number Mona Lisas, Mona Lisa gag postcards, crossword puzzles, postage stamps, posters,  Mona Lisa comic strips and

Mad about MAD: "Les limitaions de Mad a l'egard de la segregation sont celles du liberalisme american dans son ensemble ... Cette hypocrisie de bonne foi qui pousse les plus honnetes a considerer que la mystique anti-negre ne constitue meme pas matiere a scandale, a l'accepter passivement sans se sentir troubles par leur propre silence, est un des elements les plus inquietants de l'ideologie americaine." Bizarre no 6 (November 1956)

Mad about MAD: "Les limitaions de Mad à l'égard de la ségrégation sont celles du libéralisme american dans son ensemble ... Cette hypocrisie de bonne foi qui pousse les plus honnêtes à considerer que la mystique anti-nègre ne constitue même pas matière à scandale, à l'accepter passivement sans se sentir troublés par leur propre silence, est un des éléments les plus inquiétants de l'idéologie américaine." Bizarre no 6 (November 1956)

measurements of her physique, “typographical” portraits of the Mona Lisa, and countless other permutations, all gathered around Jean Margat’s tongue-in-cheek theoretical treatise, “Introduction à la Jocondoclastie” (Introduction to Mona-Lisa Iconoclasm). The last dozen or so pages are devoted to “exercises” in this new art–“découpages,” “clivages,” “déformations,” “trucages photographiques,” “chirugie,” and “destructions matérielles.”

Cinema and pop culture were also popular themes. Tarzan, Boris Karloff, Bela Lagosi, Brigitte Bardot share layouts with “monsters” from circus sideshows, film noire, comic strips, and lots of American beauties pointing guns at the viewer. A jarring flux and flow strongly reminiscent of the illustrations of Internationale Situationniste that were being published in the same years. The editors of Bizarre had a penchant for revealing the dark side of American popular culture, as in this stinging critique of MAD magazine, chastized for its lily-white heros and its complete silence on the topic of racism and the civil rights movement in the United States. The rising wave of détourned political comics, which spread quickly throughout Europe in the early sixties and became a staple visual component of protest literature in the wake of 1968, certainly ripples through the 48 issues of Bizarre from first to last.


The Cinema Industry and the Third Reich

Der Film-Kurier: Theater, Kunst, Varieté, Funk, 11 volumes (1935-1940). Over 850 issues of one of the most important trade journals of the German cinema industry prioto 1945, all from the Nazi era.

Headlines from Der Film-Kurier 20, no. 267 (November 14, 1935): "Jews No Longer Allowed to Attend Any Cinema"

Headlines from Der Film-Kurier on November 14, 1935: "Jews No Longer Allowed to Attend Any Cinema"

Published in Berlin from 1919 to 1944, Der Film-Kurier documented many different facets in the development of the film industry, first in the Weimar Republic, then under the  growing shadow of the Third Reich. Stories of popular interest, photos of the latest stars, ads for new pictures jostle alongside specialized articles for professionals engaged in the production, distribution, and projection of cinema. Debates over taxes, licensing, building codes; statistics about film production and cinema attendance; the latest technical advances in sound and color; shifting alliances among the major players in the industry itself provide a singular resource for scholars of cinema in a time of immense historical importance.

But these volumes do much more than follow the paper trail of cinema. The side-by-side overage of industry news and commercial advertisements with headlines such as this –“Jews No Longer Allowed to Attend Any Cinema: Participation in Offerings of German Culture of Any Kind Prohibited” –powerfully document the transition from business-as-usual to kitsch propaganda machine as the power of Goebbel’s ministry gradually invaded every sphere of everyday life. Varying degrees of complicity, surviving enclaves of relative autonomy, blinkered concentration on narrow interests and technical developments are all to be found  here, revealing a nightmarish landscape in which many perished or fled while others sought to help or hinder themfilmkurier-2-edit or simply pursued their own interests. A splendid resource for anyone interested in exploring the world of modern cinema confronted by the brutality and terror of the Nazi regime.

Der Film-Kurier joins a growing number of other titles documenting the vicissitudes of the German film industry in the 1920s and 1930s, including yearbooks, “Cinema Calendars,” official promotion and publicity for film stars published by firms like UFA, Tobis, Gloria, and others, as well as government statistical surveys and reports on the industry commissioned in the Third Reich and after the Second World War. Much of this material is still uncataloged, so be sure to check out our “Uncataloged Acquisitions” search engine to find more.

Russian Satirical Magazines–Soviet Style

Buzotër (The Troublemaker), nos. 1-3 (1924), 4-28 (1925), and 1-24 (1926). Three complete years, bound in two volumes, of a heavily illustrated Russian satirical magazine that ran from 1924 to 1928.buzoter-2-edited


When the first Russian Revolution broke out in 1905, writers and artists leapt at the chance to fill the void opened by the sudden collapse of censorship. No less than 309 new satirical magazines started publication during the brief window of 1905/1906, though most survived only for a few issues before being shut down and (in many cases) their editors being put in prison. The lavish use of color illustration make these underground papers a startling document of the intellectual ferment, but also the artistic sophistication of a milieu that suddenly had the opportunity to express itself boldly and in the public domain. Most of the artists who contributed to this first generation of radical satirical magazines were associated with the revival of Russian arts and internationbuzoter-3-editedal currents of the Symbolist movement, most strongly represented by the Mir Iskusstva group, which was heavily involved in the revolutionary outpouring of art and vitriol. While many of them later avoided association with the Bolshevik revolution and the Bolshevik regime, artists such as Evgenii Evgenievich Lansere, Isaak Izrailevich Brodskii, and Msislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinskii participated in the artistic outpouring after 1917, although by then a younger generation of Futurists, Constructivists, and Suprematists led the charge (at least until they were suppressed under Stalinism and the doctrine of “Socialist Realism.”

Buzotër is a fascinating product of the ecclectic currents at work in the early years of the Soviet Union. The magazine itself displays strong similarities to the satirical magazines of 1905/1906, in format, content, and the strong use of color in bold illustrations not only on the covers but also in between. Yet stylistically, much of the caricature here is inflected through the lens of later movements–Constructivism, Expressionism, and Dada are particularly apparent–and many of its contributors belonged to the younger generation that had declared its independence from Mir Iskusstva and Symbolism already before the First World War. Among the new “Troublemakers” contributing to the magazine were Vladimir Ivanovich Lebedev, Aleksei Radakov, Nikolai Kupreianov, and others.


For an extensive sampling of complete issues from the first wave of Russian satirical magazines, see our link from the digital library:

Bilibin’s Folktales

Ivan Iakovlevich Bilibin, Skazki, 6 vols. (St. Petersburg: Expeditsii Zagotovleniia Gosudarstvennykh Bumag, 1901-1903).

Cover of Skazki, no. 3 (May 18, 1902) Peryshko Finista Iasna-Sokola

Cover of Skazki, no. 3 (May 18, 1902) Peryshko Finista Iasna-Sokola

A complete set of six folktales lavishly illustrated by Ivan Bilibin expands the Beinecke’s holdings of Russian graphic art and, more particularly, thbilibin-skazki-002e Mir Isskustva (World of Art) group. Published in St. Petersburg between 1901 and 1903, the six volumes date from the period just after Bilibin had joined the group, and several of the illustrations in them were displayed at Mir Isskustva exhibitions.Drawing on an ecclectic mix of traditional art forms–the icon, the lubok, Persian miniatures, and medievel book illustration–Bilibin fuses them together with contemporary currents of the late 19th century to create a rigid and highly stylized unity that marks the culmination of the style russe as it was propagated by the “World of Art.”

Bilibin had studied under Il’ia Repin at a private art school founded by Pricess Tenisheva, one of Mir Issustva‘s most important patrons and a fervent supporter of the revival of Russian folk art at the turn of the 20th century. Introduced to the group by Leo Bakst in 1899, Bilibin wrote several important treatises on Northern Russian peasant art of the 17th and 18th centuries.  Yet while enamored of early modern sytles, Bilibin rejected all notions of attempting to revive or recreate them, insisting instead that a new genuinely Russian style could emerge only through direct engagement with modern artistic currents. Here Bilibin took his cue not so much from the English arts and crafts movement of Ruskin and Morris, but instead from the German Kunstgewerbebewegung,


which likewise embraced the modern and emphasized the importance of innovation in graphic design. “[O]nly the Germans, and not the French, understand the art of the book,” Bilibin later wrote, reflecting the lasting influence of his exposure to these currents during an early study visit in Munich before the turn of the century. Like bilibin-skazki-005many others in Mir Isskustva, Bilibin was attracted to stage design as well as book design, and he worked on sets for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snegouochka in Prague in 1904 and Sergei Diaghilev’s production of Boris Godunov in 1908. When the first Russian Revolution broke out in 1905, Bilibin joined many others from the Mir Isskustva circle in contributing to  the stunningly illustrated satirical magazines that briefly flourished in the absence of censorship After the Revolution was crushed, however, Bilibin returned to a more moderate and anti-political stance. Leaving Petersburg for the Crimea in 1917, he avoided the brung of the Bolshevik revolution, and after a five-year sojourn in Egypt, he settled in Paris in 1925. Bilibin eventually returned to the Soviet Union, however, and he died in Leningrad in 1942.

More of Bilibin’s striking images can be found, alongside those of his Mir Isskustva comrades, in Beinecke’s collection of Russian satirical magazines from the Revolution of 1905. A large portion of the collection has been digitized and is publically available at:

Architectural Fantasies of the “Soviet Piranesi”

Iakov Chernikhov, Architekturnye Fantazii: 101 Kompositsiia v Kraskakh, 101 Architekturnaia Miniatura (Leningrad: Mezhdunarodnaia Kniga, 1933). 102 pp., 101 leaves of color illustrations.

Fantasy #67: Linear Resolution of 3-Dimensional Architectural Rendering in Axiometric Perspective

Fantasy #67: Linear Resolution of 3-Dimensional Architectural Rendering in Axiometric Perspective

Between 1929 and 1933, Iakov Chernikhov published three major works that together compose a vivid documentation of Constructivist architecture in Soviet Russia. It was above all the last of these, Architektura Fantazii, that earned him the reputation of being “the Soviet Piranesi.” Featured here, the color plates at the back of this volume capture the chernikhov-9-editinterplay of architecture, painting, interior and graphic design that was a hallmark not only of Russian Constructivism, but also of many other modernist movements–De Stijl, Bauhaus, Elementarism, to name a few–that likewise strove to integrate the creative arts in a way that would not only reflect the new utopian societies they imagined, but would actually serve as vehicles for their realization as well.

Chernikhov’s bold use of line, color, empty space, and multivalent form seems to blur the distinction between painterly abstraction and  architectuchernikhov-1-editral drawing, much as Lissitzky’s prouns had done a decade or so earlier, but from the other direction. A latecomer to Contstructivism , Chernikhov had himself long been interested in relations between painting and architecture. After graduating from the Odessa School of Art in 1914, he moved to Petersburg, where he initially continued his studies in painting at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, but in 1916 he switched to architecture and eventually graduated as a certified practicing architect in 1925. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Chernikhov devoted much time to teaching at various Soviet schools, where he focused on providing his students with a necessary introduction to “graphic literacy,” devising courses on “Methods of Depiction,”  “Projection Sketching” and “Projection Drawing” while simultaneously striving to compile an “Encyclopedia of Geometric Drawing” and “A Course on Curves.” The fruits of these efforts appeared in two large textbooks published at the end of the decade, Osnovy Sovremennoi Arkhitektury (Fundamentals of Modern Architecture, 1929-30) and Konstruktsiya Architekturnykh i Mashinnykh Form (The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms, 1931). But his Architectural Fantasies remain unrivaled as an expression of his vision, inspiring generations of architects in the later twentieth century and beyond.

chernikhov-2-edit2Earlier this year, Beinecke acquired Chernikhov’s first two textbooks (check out the “Uncataloged Acquisitions” search engine on the Beinecke’s homepage), for which the Fantasies now make a fine companion volume as welll as an exquisite addition to the General Modern Collection’s holdings of Russian Constructivism and European avant-garde architecture.