15 Avenue Junot, 75018 Paris, France
Cimetière de Montparnasse Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Tristan Tzara (born Samuel or Samy Rosenstock, also known as S. Samyro; 28 April [O.S. 16 April] 1896 – 25 December 1963) was a Romanian and French avant-garde poet, essayist and performance artist. He was friends with René Crevel and Eugene McCown.
Also active as a journalist, playwright, literary and art critic, composer and film director, Tzara was known best for being one of the founders and central figures of the anti-establishment Dada movement. Under the influence of Adrian Maniu, the adolescent Tzara became interested in Symbolism and co-founded the magazine Simbolul with Ion Vinea (with whom he also wrote experimental poetry) and painter Marcel Janco. During World War I, after briefly collaborating on Vinea's Chemarea, he joined Janco in Switzerland. There, Tzara's shows at the Cabaret Voltaire and Zunfthaus zur Waag, as well as his poetry and art manifestos, became a main feature of early Dadaism. His work represented Dada's nihilistic side, in contrast with the more moderate approach favored by Hugo Ball.
After moving to Paris in 1919, Tzara, by then one of the "presidents of Dada", joined the staff of Littérature magazine, which marked the first step in the movement's evolution toward Surrealism. He was involved in the major polemics which led to Dada's split, defending his principles against André Breton and Francis Picabia, and, in Romania, against the eclectic modernism of Vinea and Janco. This personal vision on art defined his Dadaist plays The Gas Heart (1921) and Handkerchief of Clouds (1924). A forerunner of automatist techniques, Tzara eventually aligned himself with Breton's Surrealism, and under its influence wrote his celebrated utopian poem The Approximate Man.
Tristan Tzara (second from right) in the 1920s, with Margaret C. Anderson, Jane Heap, and John Rodker
Tristan Tzara and Rene Crevel, by Man Ray
During the final part of his career, Tzara combined his humanist and anti-fascist perspective with a communist vision, joining the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and the French Resistance during World War II, and serving a term in the National Assembly. Having spoken in favor of liberalization in the People's Republic of Hungary just before the Revolution of 1956, he distanced himself from the French Communist Party, of which he was by then a member. In 1960, he was among the intellectuals who protested against French actions in the Algerian War.
Tristan Tzara was an influential author and performer, whose contribution is credited with having created a connection from Cubism and Futurism to the Beat Generation, Situationism and various currents in rock music. The friend and collaborator of many modernist figures, he was the lover of dancer Maja Kruscek in his early youth and was later married to Swedish artist and poet Greta Knutson, the daughter of a wealthy family in Stockholm. In love with modernism, the couple asked the Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), then living in Paris, to design their future home on the heights of Montmartre. To account for the significant elevation of the land, Loos imagines a dwelling on 5 levels. The first two are dedicated to the cellar and the coal warehouse, then to the kitchen, the office and the laundry room. It is only in the 3rd that you can access the reception rooms: living room and dining room, accompanied by an office. The 4th and 5th floors are reserved for private apartments. Tzara and Knutson had to intervene to modify the initial plans of the great architect who had, in his fantasy, forgotten to design a painting workshop for the mistress of the place all acquired to surrealism. The work was completed in 1926. The whole is marked by the search for purity and an economy of ornamentation. Interviewed in the late 1990s, Christophe Tzara, who was born at this address in 1927, remembered that his parents quickly got older from this house where you could not take three steps without falling on a staircase. The couple separated in 1937.
In 1961, as recognition for his work as a poet, Tzara was awarded the prestigious Taormina Prize. One of his final public activities took place in 1962, when he attended the International Congress on African Culture, organized by English curator Frank McEwen and held at the National Gallery in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. He died one year later in his Paris home, and was buried at the Cimetière du Montparnasse.
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