Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being

The subversive works and personality of the French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907) played a crucial role in the transition from the nineteenth-century avant-garde to the emergent modernist movements of the early twentieth century. An inspiration for Dada and Surrealism and a touchstone for the Theatre of the Absurd, Jarry is most renowned for his play Ubu roi. To his contemporaries, however—figures such as Paul Gauguin, Henri Rousseau, Oscar Wilde, and Guillaume Apollinaire—Jarry’s prestige extended beyond theater. He applied his genius to poetry, the novel, and operettas; he was a graphic artist, an actor, a puppeteer, a critic, and the inventor of an imaginary science called pataphysics. Some of the many ideas and innovations he brought to multiple mediums also found expression in his maverick book and magazine designs. Jarry was one of the first writers to experiment with visual typography. By exploring his enterprises in print, the exhibition contributes to an ever-broadening appreciation of his role in the radical upheaval in the arts more than a century ago.

Curator:
Sheelagh Bevan, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator of Printed Books and Bindings

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