After the period of mourning, his father divided the apartment in two, one part for himself and the other for his son. He had a bed, he had three large cameras, he had several kinds of lighting, he had a window screen, and in a little closet he did all his developing.

One day she told him that she liked his photographs of her better than any that had ever been taken except one snapshot I had taken of her recently.

Frans Postma — Mondrian’s studio, indicated simply on his calling card by the address 26 rue du Départ, functioned for fifteen years as a unique three-dimensional workspace for experimentally applying the aesthetic views that he articulated from 1917 until 1924 in De Stijl. His most important essay on the significance of Neo-Plasticism for the non-natural environment, “Neo-Plasticism: The Home – The Street – The City”, appeared in Internationale Revue i10  in 1927. Mondrian repeatedly carried out his experiments with the application of two-dimensional color planes on the walls of his studio that aimed to achieve an expanding effect. When the studio was demolished in around 1940 this bearer of Mondrian’s only three-dimensional work of art disappeared. In fact it should be considered a series of works, given that he kept radically altering it, just as he also made series of paintings that aesthetically “destroyed” the previous ones. All we are left with are drawings, photographs and numerous recollections that sing the praises of the paradisiacal character of the studio.

Mondrian finished furnishing his three-dimensional installation in 1925. He asked Paul Delbo to photograph the studio and the main picture appeared two years later as a representation of Neo-Plastic artwork. A year before, the space was already garnering lots of interest, as an article in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf (September 12, 1926) testifies to, which no doubt encouraged a lot of artists to visit him and his studio in Paris. He therefore needed to provide his visitors with an address and directions to his studio, these appear on his calling card. At the top of the card, he arranged horizontal lines that represent rue du Départ with, on the right side, a quarter circle for place de Rennes, and the steps to Gare Montparnasse. The crossroads in the middle is the boulevard Edgar-Quinet, and the vertical lines on the left stand for avenue du Maine. A little further along, is a gate to the courtyard and his address: “Escalier I” (Staircase 1) on the “III ét.” (3rd floor).

In the summer of 1926 Mondrian’s friend Michel Seuphor invited the Hungarian photographer André Kertész to rue du Départ to record this extraterrestrial-like studio.

Michel Seuphor — The courtyard, from where the stairs led up to Mondrian’s studio, was in a sorry state. It stank a bit in the stairwell. And then his front door. You couldn’t be mistaken: a dark brown door with, in the middle, a small white visiting card about 3 by 6 centimeters bearing the name “P. Mondrian”. When you entered, it was still dark, but when you went through that second door, when that opened, you went from hell to heaven. Beautiful! It was incredible. When the door opened and you stepped in, you were in another world. An incredible feeling of beauty, of peace, of quiet and harmony.

André Kertész, *Chez Mondrian, Paris*, b/w photograph, 1926. Copyright Estate of André Kertész, New York. - © Oracles: Artists’ Calling Cards

André Kertész, Chez Mondrian, Paris, b/w photograph, 1926. Copyright Estate of André Kertész, New York.

Mondrian often shifted the two tables in the corner and in front of the window. One of the tables, at which he painted, was covered with a piece of cloth which was very supple and which he had fixed to the table with little nails or something. I saw him painting several times. He always had his paintings lying on the table and he would make black lines onto white with charcoal and a ruler ; I remember very well how he worked – always facing the window, in full light.
The hat in that photograph is my hat ! I always had a summer boater like that. That shows it was in the summer. This photograph was made by Kertész. He was Hungarian, didn’t speak a word of French and only a few words of German. He couldn’t manage in Paris without me. I had to help him. Then he learned French fairly quickly. He would make all the photographs I asked him for, as well as a few extra. He photographed everything, immediately. The first time I took him to Mondrian I left him standing by the entrance and said to him, “You have to take this photograph.” He also photographed the little kitchen and the back of the studio.
There you see two books lying on the table, which was completely unusual for Piet. There was never any printed matter to be seen at his place. Never. It was not allowed to see anything printed. But this is an exception, since it was the day my book Diaphragme intérieur et un drapeau (Internal diaphragm and a flag) appeared. Piet wanted to have it lying there, it had to be in the photograph. That was in October–November 1926. I can say that with certainty. So Kertész took the photograph. Yes, that’s how it was. Mondrian’s maquette of the decor for L’Éphémère est éternel (The Ephemeral is Eternal) was just finished then. It no longer exists.
In the studio, Mondrian dealt with his impressions of the big city. He loved going out, dining and dancing. I often accompanied him. Mondrian would ask me, “Come by this evening about eight and I’ll take you out with my friends from Holland and we’ll go to Le Bœuf sur le Toit. There we’ll eat well for a change.” He very much wanted me to come along, but I was very bored the whole evening : I didn’t dance. Mondrian did. But not all women liked to dance with him. They thought the moves he made were too difficult. He often went out with Dutch people. In Amsterdam or The Hague people would say to each other, “If you go to Paris you have to go to Mondrian’s studio, but you have to invite him out for a good dinner.” Yes, he liked to go out every evening. Twice we went together to the Revue Nègre with Josephine Baker at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

Frans Postma (ed.)
“Michel Seuphor interview by Frans Postma from 1987”, 26, Rue du Départ, Mondrian’s Studio 1921–1936, Berlin, Ernst & Sohn, 1995
(Passage quoted in extenso)

Frans Postma — In 1921, Mondrian returned to the most nondescript part of rue du Départ, presumably because he simply liked it there. He continued to live and work there for fifteen years. It was the place where he received journalists, friends and colleagues ; from where he went out to eat with them, just around the corner in the boulevard Edgar-Quinet or the more fashionable boulevard du Montparnasse. There, on the terraces of Le Dôme and La Rotonde, he would trade the latest ideas with his friends, and then go to the Bal Nègre, Dingo or The Jockey, where couples danced to the music of a stranded ship’s orchestra in a mist of thick cigarette smoke. The great attraction there was the model and painter Kiki. Mondrian became absorbed into Parisian life in his own way. He called himself Pierre Mondrian since the sound and the rhythm struck him as nicer, and in his opinion suited him better. In 1926 he was listed under this name in the population register, among the thirty-five or so other people registered at 26 rue du Départ.
In 1936, according to Mondrian, everything in Paris had become ephemeral. Snobs had the upper hand and the “artists” were dabblers earning a lot of money with rubbish. With the prospect of the approaching German threat, Mondrian looked for an alternative. In March 1936 he left rue du Départ and moved to 278 boulevard Raspail. In 1938 he left Paris for good, heading first to London and then to New York.

Alexander Calder — Mondrian lived at 26 rue du Départ. (That building has been demolished since, to make more room for the Gare Montparnasse.) It was a very exciting room. Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the Victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red.
I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make theses rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said : “No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.”
This visit gave me a shock. A bigger shock, even, than eight years earlier, when off Guatemala I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other.
This one visit gave me a shock that started things.
Though I had heard the word “modern” before, I did not consciously know or feel the term “abstract”. So now, at thirty-two, I wanted to paint and work in the abstract. And for two weeks or so, I painted very modest abstractions. At the end of this, I reverted to plastic work which was still abstract.
Shortly before this, I had lacked money for my rent.

Alexander Calder
Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures, New York, Pantheon, 1977
(Passage quoted in extenso)

Damarice Amao — In 1994, photographer John Loengard published Celebrating the Negative, a book wholly devoted to negatives, objects all too often neglected in the history of modern photography, at least at the time. Page after page, Loengard presents the negatives of various masterpieces that constitute milestones in the history of the medium. From private archives and photographers’ studios to public institutions, he culled, among other things, a glass plate by Walker Evans, another one by Man Ray, as well as Leica shots by Henri Cartier-Bresson and André Kertész. For the latter, a strip of two negatives shows how one of his most famous pictures came about: Meudon, 1928.

Shot 1. The instant before : a deserted street. The urban setting is merely the decor of an empty stage.
Shot 2. What is inside the frame grows denser, bringing the stage to life : a locomotive spewing a long plume of smoke, the crumbling suburban walls under a gray sky, fleeting silhouettes. And a man carrying a large package under one arm now looms up in the foreground, passing opportunely in front of Kertész’s lens.
After Kertész moved from Budapest to Paris in 1925, his adopted city became the main subject of his photographs, whose poetry, discretion and humanism became his trademarks. Benefitting from a certain seniority in the Paris photography scene, he was regarded as one of the leaders of the nascent art form, alongside the “experimental surrealist” Man Ray and the “constructivist” Germaine Krull (also known as the “Valkyrie of photography”). Amongst these new archetypes of photographers, Kertész, for his part, was called l’arpenteur mélancolique (the melancholy surveyor).
Beyond the anecdotic side of Kertész’s pictures, French novelist Pierre Mac Orlan (1882–1970) detected secrets, even crimes in the making, in Kertész’s Paris – as in Atget’s, too. Underneath the apparent placidity and transparency of the images lie all the torments and wretchedness of modern life, which Mac Orlan encapsulated in his coinage le fantastique social. “These images of Paris, selected from among so many others,” he wrote in the preface to Paris vu par André Kertész, “are of such essential simplicity that they reveal secret or public tragedies, which give a certain mobility to this mass of stones, cement and iron permeated by the historical anxiety preceding the advent of a new millennium.”
For over a decade, Kertész’s Paris career was split between personal projects and work commissioned by the press. Thanks to his inventiveness and his mastery of the art of reportage, he was much sought after by Vu, the first modern-day French illustrated, and by avant-garde journals like Bifur. His commissioned work was nurtured by his personal work and vice versa.
A contract to work for the Keystone Picture Agency took him to New York in 1936. He had a hard time starting over in America for many years, and when Hungary joined the Axis in World War II he was declared an enemy alien and prohibited from accepting commissions and publishing his work. Eventually, freelance jobs on a great many projects for Harper’s Bazaar and Condé Nast magazines ensured him some degree of financial security. And yet Kertész had faded away over the course of his exile in America, as his friend Brassaï recounted in the journal Camera in 1963 : “When I saw him again a few years ago – he was waiting for me on the quay at the Port of New York – his first words were : ‘I’m dead. It’s a dead man you see now.’”
As we now know, the history of photography is one of miracles and resurrections. 1963 was to prove the very year of Kertész’s professional resurgence and rehabilitation in the history of photography, even though he was already sixty-nine years old. That was also the year he found the negatives from his Hungarian and Parisian periods that had been kept hidden in France. Even while still working on his last American commissions, he had long since taken up his personal projects again. But the rediscovery of his negatives enabled him to reconstruct his overall oeuvre. Publications, retrospectives and awards then followed in rapid succession, particularly in France, until his death in 1985. Shortly before he passed away, Kertész donated his archive and correspondence to the French state, significantly enriching France’s national photographic heritage. The negatives are kept to this day by the Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, which is where John Loengard was able to photograph, among thousands of preserved negatives, those of Meudon.

André Kertész, Pierre Mac Orlan
Paris vu par André Kertész, Paris, Librairie Plon, 1934

Alice B. Toklas — There were a lot of people in the room when we came in and soon Gertrude Stein was talking to a little man who sat in the corner. As we went out she made an engagement with him. She said he was a photographer and seemed interesting, and reminded me that Jeanne Cook, William Cook’s wife, wanted her picture taken to send to Cook’s people in America. We all three went to Man Ray’s hotel. It was one of the little, tiny hotels in the rue Delambre and Man Ray had one of the small rooms, but I have never seen any space, not even a ship’s cabin, with so many things in it and the things so admirably disposed. He had a bed, he had three large cameras, he had several kinds of lighting, he had a window screen, and in a little closet he did all his developing. He showed us pictures of Marcel Duchamp and a lot of other people and he asked if he might come and take photographs of the studio and of Gertrude Stein. He did and he also took some of me and we were very pleased with the result. He has at intervals taken pictures of Gertrude Stein and she is always fascinated with his way of using lights. She always comes home very pleased. One day she told him that she liked his photographs of her better than any that had ever been taken except one snapshot I had taken of her recently. This seemed to bother Man Ray. In a little while he asked her to come and pose and she did. He said, move all you like, your eyes, your head, it is to be a pose but it is to have in it all the qualities of a snapshot. The poses were very long, she, as he requested, moved, and the results, the last photographs he made of her, are extraordinarily interesting.

Gertrude Stein
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, New York, Vintage Books, 1961
(Passage quoted in extenso)

André Breton — The very elegant, very beautiful women who expose their hair night and day to the terrible lights in Man Ray’s studio are surely not aware they are taking part in a demonstration of any kind. How amazed they would be if I told them they were taking part in the same way as a quartz cannon, a bunch of keys, hoarfrost or a fern! The pearl necklace slides from the bare shoulders onto a blank page, where it is caught by a ray of sunshine along with other items that are there. What was merely finery, what was nothing less than finery, is simultaneously abandoned to a taste for shadows, to the justice of shadows.

André Breton
Le Surréalisme et la peinture, Paris, Gallimard, 1928
(Passage quoted in extenso, our translation)

Damarice Amao — In his 1963 Self Portrait, Man Ray recalls meeting members of the Dadaist avant-garde the very night he arrived in Paris, July 14, 1921. Marcel Duchamp performed the introductions. Ray was immediately struck by how much Paul Éluard looked like Baudelaire, only “younger”, and how André Breton “already seemed to dominate the group, carrying his imposing head like a chip on the shoulder”. Like a friend one has the impression one has always known, the American artist was immediately adopted by the band of young poets who would soon form the Surrealist movement, including Louis Aragon, Jacques Rigaut, Philippe Soupault and Théodore Fraenkel.

Man Ray, *Gun and Key No. 37*, Rayograph from the portfolio 
Les Champs Délicieux, 1922. © Man Ray 2015 Trust / 2023, Pro Litteris, Zurich - © Oracles: Artists’ Calling Cards

Man Ray, Gun and Key No. 37, Rayograph from the portfolio
Les Champs Délicieux, 1922. © Man Ray 2015 Trust / 2023, Pro Litteris, Zurich

At thirty-one years of age, Man Ray came to Paris in the hope of a more successful career in painting than he had known in the United States. In spite of the Dadaists’ encouragement, the public’s indifference to his painting led him to concentrate on photography in order to make a living in the capital. Outside of commissioned portraits and photographs for the fashion industry, Ray, who from the outset shared the Surrealists’ poetic idealism, became their official photographer, albeit cultivating a certain degree of independence, for which even Breton never overtly rebuked him. Each of his compeers routinely posed for him, alone or in a group, in the studio or amid the spontaneity of daily life. The very first sessions took place in the furnished room he rented in 1922 in the Hôtel des Écoles on rue Delambre in the Montparnasse quarter. Romanian Dadaist Tristan Tzara rented a room for himself there too shortly after Man Ray moved in.
The Surrealists’ interest in photography was complicated. It was always there – in their journals, novels and group games, in their collages and found objects such as postcards, and in the intimacy of their day-to-day lives – though without ever being definitively theorized by Breton, who officially “endorsed” precious few photographers. The Surrealists’ friendship and admiration for Man Ray, on the other hand, were constant and absolute, expressed in prose and poems about him.
It was his Rayographs, the principle of which he “accidentally rediscovered” in his room on rue Delambre in 1922, that forged his lasting artistic bond to the Surrealists. Embracing the unconscious and objective chance, Ray endowed the art of photography with the experimental and magical properties beloved of the Surrealists.

Man Ray — It was while making these prints that I hit on my Rayograph process, or cameraless photographs. One sheet of photo paper got into the developing tray – a sheet unexposed that had been mixed with those already exposed under the negatives. I made my several exposures first, developing them together later – and as I waited in vain a couple of minutes for an image to appear, regretting the waste of paper, I mechanically placed a small glass funnel, the graduate and the thermometer in the tray on the wetted paper. I turned on the light ; before my eyes an image began to form, not quite a simple silhouette of the objects as in a straight photograph, but distorted and refracted by the glass more or less in contact with the paper and standing out against a black background, the part directly exposed to the light. Taking whatever objects came to hand: my hotel-room key, a handkerchief, some pencils, a brush, a candle, a piece of twine – it wasn’t necessary to put them in the liquid but on the dry paper first, exposing it to the light for a few seconds as with the negatives – I made a few more prints, excitedly, enjoying myself immensely. In the morning I examined the results, pinning a couple of the Rayographs – as I decided to call them – on the wall.

Man Ray
Self Portrait, New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1963
(Passage quoted in extenso)

Damarice Amao — That same year 1922, Ray published a selection of his Rayographs in Champs délicieux, with a preface by Tzara, who presented them to the Congress of Constructivists and Dadaists in Weimar in September. After this conference, El Lissitzky spread the malicious rumor that Moholy-Nagy, following Tzara’s presentation, had taken up the practice of photograms. In point of fact, the German painter Christian Schad had beaten Ray and Moholy-Nagy to it: in 1919 he had begun experimenting with the process of cameraless photographs first used almost a whole century earlier by the British photography pioneer William Fox Talbot.
In October 1924, Louis Aragon waxed lyrical about Rayographs, the photographic equivalents of automatic writing, in “Une Vague de rêves” : Man Ray, who has tamed the world’s biggest eyes, dreams in his way with knife rests and salt shakers : he gives the light meaning and lo and behold, now it can speak.” (Louis Aragon, Une Vague de rêves”, Commerce, No.  2, Paris, 1924). Beyond Surrealism, the success of Rayographs made Man Ray a seminal figure of the artistic avant-garde in Paris and throughout Europe between the wars.

Eva Fabbris — Filippo Tommaso Marinetti called it his “idea stoker” :
the huge luxurious apartment his father, Enrico, rented in Milan, at via Senato 2, upon returning to Italy at the beginning of the century after an extended sojourn in Alexandria getting rich as a legal consultant to foreign companies in modernizing Egypt. The house was filled with sumptuous and exotic furniture and other objects brought back from Egypt. And this is where the writer would suffer his first tragic losses. When his older brother Leone died at the age of twenty-three, as he later recounts, he held house concerts “to inebriate my brother in the afterlife with Bellini, Verdi and Puccini” ; his mother followed suit, departing in 1902. After the period of mourning, his father divided the apartment in two, one part for himself and the other for his son. The big cluttered bedroom in the section reserved for the son was to become the command center of Futurism. The room contained a desk and two small Arab tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl and piled high with papers. But the seat in which Marinetti did most of his thinking, working and dictating was the least Futurist piece of furniture imaginable: a Thonet rocking chair! In a small adjacent room was a harmonium, which he would play in moments of intense concentration. And then there was incense, bottles of perfume and clouds of smoke from Marinetti’s strong, sugary Oriental cigarettes – he always had one in his mouth. In February 1905 he launched the monthly journal Poesia, headquartered in his apartment, which became even more crowded and bustling with visitors. Every room, every moment of the day, every need was shared and exhilarating. His fellow Futurist writer Aldo Palazzeschi recalls: “At breakfast and dinner time Nina would appear, the very young maid in blue with exquisite Goldonian grace, who with the greatest ease and almost disdain removed everything extraneous from the table, which had become a veritable hotbed of ideas in order to restore it, at least temporarily, to its natural function.”

During his via Senato period, which ended in 1911 with his move to the famous nearby Casa Rossa at corso Venezia 61, Marinetti actually had a second home : the train, on which he spent days and nights traveling to slake his thirst for a leading role in the events unfolding elsewhere on the Continent, events that would shape the course of European cultural and political life for many years to come. He was continually commuting between Milan and Paris, often with long, incommodious detours to London, Catanzaro… All that sometimes in the course of a single week. It was vital to Marinetti to establish a network of personal acquaintances, not necessarily based on mutual esteem and support : the main thing was for everyone to know about him and his movement. Hence the paramount importance of the printed page and its circulation. Before the Futurist Manifesto came out on Le Figaro’s front page, Marinetti had huge posters put up in Italy’s major cities with the words “Futurismo – F. T. Marinetti” in great big red letters. And nothing else.

The Futurist Group (Jannelli, Depero, Prampolini, Azari, Bisi, Marinetti, Lescovic, Casavola, Pinna, Somenzi, Russolo, Vianello – to the right of Russolo – Paoca, Mazza), undated [c. 1912]. Photographer unknown, image layout design by Fortunato Depero. Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Filippo Tommaso Marinetti papers), Yale University, New Haven, CT. - © Oracles: Artists’ Calling Cards

The Futurist Group (Jannelli, Depero, Prampolini, Azari, Bisi, Marinetti, Lescovic, Casavola, Pinna, Somenzi, Russolo, Vianello – to the right of Russolo – Paoca, Mazza), undated [c. 1912]. Photographer unknown, image layout design by Fortunato Depero. Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Filippo Tommaso Marinetti papers), Yale University, New Haven, CT.

The urgent compulsion to publicize Futurism governed Marinetti’s every action and melded with his both egotistical and magnanimous nature : gifts and presentation copies of published issues of Poesia, which had metamorphosed from a literary journal into the publishing house behind a whole cultural movement, were the order of the day. Palazzeschi, again, recalls his dismay when the house published his book Incendiario and Marinetti gave him a list of about 700 names – including figures in the cultural avant-garde, of course, but also open critics of experimentalism as well as politicians, industrialists, other power brokers and noblewomen – each of whom was to receive a signed copy with a personal dedication. It was a custom for publications promoted by Marinetti, once they were duly “personalized”, to be personally delivered by the publisher along with gifts of drawings or panettone. Not everyone understood the reasoning behind this prodigal strategy : in his literary magazine La Voce, Giuseppe Prezzolini called Marinetti a “disorganizer” : “Who would ever be so stupid as to purchase a Futurist book when he knows he need only send a simple calling card to F. T. Marinetti, corso Venezia 61, Milan, to have a whole package of them bundled off to him by post and, later, to regularly receive all their future publications ?”

Chiara Costa — Piero Manzoni considered himself a European artist. He admired the communicational punch and international recognizability of the Futurists, who, twenty years before his birth, had grasped the need to place their work in a wider context than Italian society. He spoke French, because in those days Paris was still where an artist’s influence was confirmed, and English, having forced himself from childhood to learn it on a gramophone, switching back and forth between language-learning records and recordings by Thelonious Monk, who sought through jazz to open music up to new harmonic dimensions.

His personality has often been described using the stock phrase genio + sregolatezza (genius and dissipation): Manzoni did love to have fun and stay out late ; he loved women, booze and everything most twenty-somethings love to do. But he loved even more to travel and determinedly present his artistic work : “Anyway, what counts is to make my talents – and I know I have some – bear fruit in order to make my life the best and most useful thing it can be.” Raised in an environment that was bourgeois, aristocratic and Catholic, but not bigoted, Manzoni believed more in individual ethics than in anything else. Which is why the studio was the most important place to him : the setting in which he developed his art by himself, out of ideas and not received opinions. And it was in his last studio, at via Fiori Chiari 16, that he died in early 1963.
His whole life in Milan revolved around the Brera district, which is home to the Academy of Fine Arts. While his home address remained the same at via Cernaia 4 – the telephone number there (Ab. 66 29 29) appears at the bottom of his business card, under the phone number at his “NEW ATELIER”, he successively used three different studios in the vicinity.
The first was on via Montebello, where he worked from the second half of the 1950s after having quit studying law in Milan and philosophy in Rome. He knew he wanted to devote himself to painting, but writing was still an option at the time. He wrote continually during those years, chiefly in connection with his involvement in the Nuclear Art movement (see the group’s manifesto Contro lo stile [Against Style]).
Between 1958 and 1959 he moved to another studio on via Fiori Oscuri, where he wrote less and painted more – because he felt art should speak for itself. He worked on white surfaces coated with gesso (gypsum or plaster of Paris and glue) or soaked in kaolin (specialist clay), which he called Superfici Acrome (Colorless surfaces). He made the most of some shops near the studio, including the Crespi paint shop and Sciardelli stationery on via Palermo, but above all the printer’s shop of Antonio Maschera, whose typography was crucial to the development of Manzoni’s works on paper with calendars and letters of the alphabet.
It was also in this second studio that the idea of Linee (Lines) took shape, Manzoni’s “most exceptional discovery”, according to his friend – and putative father – Lucio Fontana : each Linea comprised a black line drawn the length of a long strip of paper, which was then rolled up and placed in a labeled and signed cylindrical cardboard tube. A few months later, Manzoni teamed up with Enrico Castellani for a two-pronged experiment, launching a magazine called Azimuth and a gallery with almost the same name, Galleria Azimut. The second issue of Azimuth, printed in January 1960 in Italian, French and English, featured “Libera Dimensione”, an article in which Manzoni declared he was “quite unable to understand those painters who, whilst declaring an active interest in modern problems, still continue even today to confront a painting as if it was a surface to be filled with color and forms which can be more or less appreciated, more or less guessed at. […] Why shouldn’t this surface be freed ? Why not seek to discover the unlimited meaning of total space, of pure and absolute light ? […] The issue, for me, is to give an integrally white (or rather, completely colorless, neutral) surface that goes beyond any pictorial phenomenon, any intervention that is foreign to the surface’s value : a white that is not a polar landscape, an evocative matter or a beautiful matter, a sensation or a symbol, or any other thing ; a white surface that is a white surface and that’s it […]: being (and total being is pure becoming).”
He went on to focus on the allusiveness and disappearance of works of art. Increasingly bent on making his mark throughout Europe, he wrote to friends that he was spending everything he had on travel and had produced what he would subsequently call Corpo d’Aria (Body of Air) : “a pneumatic sculpture : you blow it up with a pump, then deflate it and take it away : extremely handy for shows abroad !”
In those years his work came to be understood and appreciated in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and, above all, Denmark, where in June and July of 1960 he first exhibited his Consumazione dell’arte dinamica del pubblico divorare l’arte (Consumption of Art by the Art-Devouring Public) : on a small table he placed some hard-boiled eggs, each bearing the artist’s thumbprint, which could be eaten on the spot for the price of roughly two thousand lire (Copenhagen, Køpke Gallery). He also produced his longest Linea, 7.2 km, in Herning, Denmark, hoping someday to connect up all his Linee into a line as long as the earth’s circumference.
Buying a work by Manzoni means buying Manzoni, his breath in
Fiato d’Artista (Artist’s Breath) to fill his bodies of air in Corpi d’Aria (Bodies of Air), and his excrement in Merda d’Artista (Artist’s Shit). Each can was labeled in Italian, English, French and German : Artist’s Shit, contents 30 g net, freshly preserved, produced and tinned in May 1961 and signed by the artist in capital letters. His Sculture viventi were also signed in all caps : with a resolute and yet amused look on his face, the artist would write “MANZONI ’61” on the side of a female nude, his “Living Sculpture”. He went from hired models to perfect strangers, even fellow artists and friends like Marcel Broodthaers, whom he had met in Brussels, and Umberto Eco (Manzoni’s last signing, in June 1962). All that was then needed was the artist’s certificate of authenticity and a pedestal to turn a human being (Base Magica) or the whole world (Socle du Monde or Base of the World, a large metal plinth similar to Base Magica but turned on its head), as if by magic, into a work of art.
“We can’t leave the ground by running and jumping, we need wings : alterations are not enough, the transformation must be all-embracing,” wrote Piero Manzoni. Now that the artificer, idea and artefact at long last formed a unique and indivisible entity, Manzoni felt his oeuvre had become recognizable and the time had come to compile a systematic catalog of his works.
But he did not get around to it in time. He died of a heart attack on February 6, 1963, age twenty-nine, on the ground floor of his “NUOVO STUDIO NOUVEAU [sic] ATELIER NEW ATELIER”. His life and art were cut short. The obituaries announced the death of a young avant-garde painter.

Germano Celant
Piero Manzoni, Milan, Prearo, 1975

Flaminio Gualdoni
Piero Manzoni. Vita d’artista, Milan, Johan & Levi, 2013

Gaspare Luigi Marcone (ed.)
Piero Manzoni. Scritti sull’arte, Milan, Abscondita, 2013

Quentin Lannes — Over the course of his career Gerrit Rietveld designed several business cards, as well as letterheads with the same layout during the corresponding periods. It is interesting to note in hindsight how his graphic productions bear witness to his changes of occupation (cabinetmaker, interior architect, architect) as well as his frequent changes of address in the same city, Utrecht, which is where he was born, where he worked and where he died.

The first, a letterhead designed in the early 1920s (Rietveld was a cabinetmaker in his thirties at the time), is an asymmetrical composition with alternating vertical and horizontal text :

Quentin Lannes - © Oracles: Artists’ Calling Cards

It starts with his city, followed by his last name, then an abbreviated version of the address of his furniture workshop, Adriaen van Ostadelaan 25, and ends with his occupation: working in stone, wood and metal. A 1918 photo shows Rietveld in front of his workshop, comfortably seated on an uncolored version of his Red Blue Chair, surrounded by some young men in work clothes. One of them might well have been G. van de Groenekan, who joined him as an apprentice in 1917 and took over the workshop in 1924 (which is when Rietveld registered as an interior architect).
That year, 1924, Rietveld designed his first building in close collaboration with the owner, Truus Schröder-Schräder : the Rietveld Schröder House, a house with a studio at Prins Hendriklaan 50. A fully-fledged architect by this time, Rietveld moved his office to the ground floor of the new house in 1925, as attested by another letterhead that dates from about 1925. Its layout is more traditional, with two lines of horizontal text :


For forty years Rietveld and Schröder-Schräder worked together on a number of projects (interiors, furniture, dwellings). Rietveld died there in 1964, the day after his seventy-sixth birthday.
A third graphic production, this one taking the form of a business card, indicates an umpteenth change of business address in Utrecht :

TEL: 17038

In 1933 he moved his architectural office to Cranesteyn, a 14th-century townhouse situated along the canal at Oudegracht 53-55.
Rietveld remained faithful to his home town and never moved far from the family home in which he had grown up at Poortstraat 98. In that house was his father’s furniture workshop, where Gerrit began working beside his father at the age of 12 after dropping out of school.
At a talk on “Rational Design” that Rietveld gave in May 1953, at the end of the academic year at the Art Academy and the Secondary Technical School in The Hague, he said : “The future is yours ; don’t wait for the older generation. We expect deeds from you, but we don’t yet see enough of them, perhaps because you work with another frame of reference. We expected, for instance, a general renewal of art after the Second World War, just as happened after the First. Apparently the older generation (I will not mention any Dutch artists), such as Picasso, Moore, Le Corbusier, Neutra, Miró, Wright and Eames, still mean something to you ; don’t let their greatness silence you. You should do what you think right without having doubts.”

Marijke Küper, Ida van Zijl
Gerrit Th. Rietveld: The Complete Works, 1888–1964, Utrecht, Centraal Museum, 1992

François Blanchetière and Véronique Mattiussi — A visiting card is not only for transmitting one’s address and other contact details to someone you meet for the first time ; they can carry a larger, more complex and sometimes coded message, even. The Musée Rodin holds, in the artist’s archives, a large number of visiting cards from various figures: artists, literary men and women, collectors, sponsors, politicians and admirers etc. Experts know how to interpret the slightest evidence that suggests social customs now fallen into disuse: thus, a bent or gently folded card points to a visit made to someone who happened not to be home.

As for this visiting card, which is part of a private collection, the fact it is a tiny letter, turns it into something else again. It is dated, but we do not know who it is addressed to – we will come back to this later. But let us start from the beginning : it has a very classic layout, with the name of the person it introduces placed in the center : A. Rodin – which matches the signature the artist used most frequently on his artworks (on both his sculptures and his drawings). On other versions of his visiting card conserved at the museum, Rodin was careful to specify his profession, “sculptor” – and this was from as early as 1865 when the was still only twenty-five years old and barely an artist given that he worked for others. At that time he lived in rue Hermel, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Ten or so years later, when living in Brussels, in chaussée de Wavre, he identified himself as a “statuary” ; another card from his Belgian period again labels him a “sculptor”, but at that point his address was rue Sans-Souci. Returning to Paris at the end of the 1870s, he moved to rue des Fourneaux (now known at rue Falguière) in the 15th arrondissement and had another card made that also identified him as a “sculptor”.
He no doubt felt the precision of this title more necessary after the directors of the Beaux-Arts offered him a studio in July 1880 at the Dépôt des marbres (marble depot), located at 182 rue de l’Université. The studio was to help him successfully complete a commission he had just received to create a decorative door adorned with “bas-reliefs illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy” – the future Porte de l’Enfer (The Gates of Hell). The buildings of the marble depot no longer exist, but the sculptor occupied a number of workshops there, both successively and simultaneously, until his death in 1917. It was there that he created most of his key masterpieces : The Thinker and The Kiss, intended for Gates ; his Monument to Balzac ; as well as the Bourgeois de Calais (The Burghers of Calais) in one of the depot’s outbuildings. While he had other studios all through his career, including at his Meudon property, it was at 182 rue de l’Université that one could write to him and where one could visit him – “on Saturdays”, as stated on the card, though other versions held in the archives specify “on Saturday mornings”, perhaps in order to leave him more time to work.
It was quite usual for artists to let people visit their studios and common to communicate the day(s) they were welcome to do so. For some, the visit took on a social aspect (like in Léopold-Louis Boilly’s beautiful painting, L’Atelier de Houdon, created in around 1804 and held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris), but Rodin’s character was never particularly open to this kind of practice. People certainly met him at his home, to talk about art and admire his work, but it was a place of work, not a salon, and the studio’s spartan furnishings left no doubt about that. Many literary men have provided testimonies of their visits there, first among them Edmond de Goncourt, who describes his visit that took place on the April 17, 1886, in his Journal.
We have to assume that on Saturday November 2, 1891, Rodin was not home, and it seems a visitor left his card, perhaps with a little note, to tell him that he had dropped by. The sculptor answered him ten days later, in his at times rather abrupt style – by chance, it happened to be the November 12, his fifty-first birthday. Did Rodin, in his turn, pay his friend a visit who also happened to be out, and leave a card for him ? It is possible, unless he chose this particular format to write him a short letter, knowing he had very few words to say : “My dear friend, you dropped by on Saturday 2nd November. I’m sorry. I thank you for your thoughtful kindness. But birds of a feather flock together as they say and an artist like yourself needs an artist like me. For, my friend, all you are missing is my profession and I assure you that you would have been a true artist, which is rare in our 19th century. With kindest regards from your friend Rodin. 12th November ’91”.
We do not know where with card originates from, but everything suggests that the recipient was a literary man, in whom Rodin recognized a creative and suggestive talent equivalent to his own, each with their own “professions”. It is tempting to identify this writer as Léon Cladel (1835–1892), a close friend who exchanged several letters with Rodin in this period, about a text that was due to be published. On the September 2, 1891, the novelist wrote this to him : “I look forward to seeing you about a group that I have to the best of my ability executed by the pen” – a lovely phrase that echoes Rodin’s words on his card. And on November 17, Cladel published an article entitled “Images versicolores” in L’Echo de Paris (the Paris Echo) newspaper, with the following dedication : “To Auguste Rodin. […] Your Bourgeois de Calais has inspired this short story, or rather the tableau, or else the group, which ends it and which could be titled : Prolétaires de Paris”. It is just a theory, but we can speculate that this little card bears witness to Rodin’s approval of and gratitude towards the novelist, after having read the text that his sculpture had in part inspired.