Billy Klüver
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1997, English
Nonfiction, Art and Cultural History
7 x 9 inches, paperback, 128 pages
ISBN: 9780262112284
Suggested Retail Price: $17.00

From the Publisher. In 1978, while collecting documentary photographs of the artists' community in Montparnasse from the first decades of the century, Billy Klüver discovered that some previously unassociated photographs fell into significant groupings. One group in particular, showing Picasso, Max Jacob, Moïse Kisling, Modigliani, and others at the Café de la Rotonde and on Boulevard du Montparnasse, all seemed to have been taken on the same day. Biographical research led Klüver to focus on the summer of 1916 as the likely time the photos were taken. Further investigation eventually allowed him to identify the photographer as Jean Cocteau and to determine the day that Cocteau had taken the photographs: August 12, 1916. In a tour de force of art historical research, Klüver then reconstructed a scenario of the events of the four hours depicted in the photographs—and re-created a single afternoon in the lives of Picasso and friends, a group of remarkable people in early-twentieth-century Paris.

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Christian Wassmann

Billy Klüver reconstructs a day in the life of Picasso and his friends around the Boulevard Montparnasse based on 24 photos taken by Jean Cocteau. By calculating the lengths and angles of the shadows of balconies and windowsills on the photos he was able to analyze what happened at what exact time on August 12, 1916. All this is only a point of departure for the beautiful stories weaving this random day into the fabric of the 20th century. In one chapter Klüver mentions that Simone de Beauvoir was eight years old at the time the photos were taken and living right above the café artists frequently visited. Klüver was an engineer with the great talent for connecting people, disciplines, and worlds.

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