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Claude Levi-Strauss handwritten letter (1950)

Claude Levi-Strauss handwritten letter (1950)

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Renowned ethnologist Claude Levi-Strauss authorizes the pioneering Neuf magazine to photograph a mask that interests surrealist André Breton.

  • Handwritten letter from Claude Levi-Strauss to Robert Delpire from Neuf magazine.
  • One page.
  • In French.
  • 21 cm x 26.8 cm.
  • Paris, May 20, 1950.
  • Excellent condition.
  • The two images of masks are merely illustrative, the first represents the cover of issue 1 of Neuf magazine and the second most likely shows the mask that is the subject of this letter.
  • Unique piece.

Extract

(...) I gladly authorize you to photograph the mask that interests you, Mr Breton. Therefore, it would be prudent for him [the photographer] to confirm his visit by telephone, calling at my house at lunchtime or at the Museum of Man.

Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908 - 2009) exerted a decisive influence on the human sciences in the second half of the 20th century. His best-known work, Tristes Tropiques , was written following two expeditions to observe the indigenous peoples of Brazil, between 1935 and 1939, and made him known worldwide. The discovery of Brazil and the encounter with the Indians who populate it, Caduveo, Bororos, Nambikwaras and Tupi-Kawahibs were "the most important experiences" of his life. At that moment he didn't feel comfortable, as he had the impression of disturbing the Indians and he really began to analyze his discoveries years later, in the United States, where he took refuge during the Second World War. His methodology and conclusions revolutionized modern ethnology.

Robert Delpire (1926 - 2017) was a fifth year medical student when he created a new artistic magazine for the medical profession, entitled Neuf, which had 9 publications, between 1950 to 195. The magazine Neuf was initially reserved for the medical profession, Many writers of the time began practicing as doctors (including Céline, Segalen), while others (including Cendrars, Breton, and Aragon) began medical studies without finishing. Delpire was also interested in surrealism and ethnography, inviting André Breton to be one of the magazine's editors. Breton agreed to write an article about some Pacific Northwest masks for the first issue of the magazine. A Haida mask, from his personal collection, was the cover of this first edition, another (the subject of this letter, check out the third image) was photographed and used as an illustration within the magazine.

Claude Levi-Strauss and André Breton (1896 - 1966) had met in 1941, on a boat, fleeing the war to the United States. Both collectors of primitive art, their friendship grew on the streets of New York. Back in France, Lévi-Strauss easily joined André Breton's small group of friends who, very early in the morning, on weekends, went to haggle at the flea market in Saint-Ouen. Levi-Strauss said: "In contact with the Surrealists, my aesthetic tastes were enriched and refined. Many things that I would have rejected appeared to me in another light.”

A letter written by someone famous and mentioning another renowned personality is often valuable. This letter from Levi-Strauss talking about André Breton, about masks they both collected, is a good example of these particularly interesting associations.

In this case, an additional interest (the icing on the cake!) is this photograph for the first issue of the pioneering magazine NEUF, from June 1950. Furthermore, the ethnologist worked in Paris and we can appreciate the header of the letter from the Ethnology Laboratory of Current Men and Fossil Men, from the Museum of Man.

Entirely handwritten and in excellent condition, this letter will attract the attention of collectors who know Claude Levi-Strauss's exceptional work on Brazil and ethnology.

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