Richard Shryock, of Blacksburg, Va., chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, is co-curator of an exhibit and co-organizer of a colloquium at prominent Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in Paris.
The exhibition is entitled "Gustave Kahn (1859-1936): Symbolist Writer and Art Critic." Kahn is best known as a Symbolist poet and a prolific art critic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the latter part of his life, Kahn became an important figure in the Jewish cultural renaissance in France.
“The paintings, documents, photographs and personal items have never been seen before,” said Shryock. The exhibition displays approximately 180 documents and works of art from his private collection including works by Matisse, Pissarro, Seurat, Signac and Luce.
The exhibit also includes a voice-recording of Kahn which had never been shared with his descendents. The recording, which was at the French National Library , was improperly catalogued which prevented others from readily finding it.
“I was of course delighted to hear it and shared a copy with Kahn’s grandson (now in his 70’s) and great-grandson (in his 30’s). The grandson had never met his grandfather so this was extremely special for him,” said Shryock.
The exhibit, organized with art historian Françoise Lucbert of the Université du Maine (Le Mans, France), will take place from Oct. 24, 2006 to Jan. 28, 2007. The Museum of the Art and History of Judaism is part of France's state-run system of museums.
The colloquium, entitled "Gustave Kahn (1859-1936): Symbolist Writer and Art Critic" will also be held at the museum on Nov. 22-23, 2006 and is co-organized with Professor Lucbert.
Shryock, a native of Sylvania, Ohio, earned his PhD and his master’s degree from the University of Michigan, and his bachelor’s degree from Ohio State.
Kahn is often known as the inventor of free verse in French literature. Although best known for his poetry, and in particular Les Palais nomades published in 1887, he also wrote novels, short stories, plays, a history of the Symbolist movement, and numerous critical articles. His role in several avant-garde journals in the late nineteenth century was key in the development of the French Symbolist movement. Beginning in 1913, he participated in the Jewish cultural renaissance in France through his activities in several organizations and the review Menorah, of which he was the editor in chief, as well as in his works such as Contes juifs (1926) and Terre d’Israël (1933).
A knowledgeable lover of art, he was a passionate follower of the evolution of the plastic arts from 1886 to his death in 1936. His art criticism was highly influential. Kahn defended impressionism and neoimpressionism and wrote on fauvism, cubism, and futurism before becoming a faithful supporter of several artists from the renowned Montparnasse area of Paris. His collection included works from numerous artists including Pissarro, Seurat, Signac, Friesz and Foujita. Interested by the question of art, he contributed regularly to several Parisian reviews devoted to Jewish culture and supported many Jewish artists and writers.
Kahn took part in the principal intellectual currents of his day including anarchism, free thought, Zionism, the struggle against anti-Semitism as well as the Dreyfus affair.