Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Little Bit About Arthur Cravan (Ailurophile and Poet With The Shortest Hair In The World)


Portrait of Arthur Cravan as The Colussus of Rhodes

 Calle San Andreas, Madrid, Summer 2010

I.         His appearance alone created a kind of awe.  This Cravan, (link) whose real name was Fabian Lloyd, boxer and poet interchangably, was over six feet tall; his extremely heavy body, admirably proportioned according to its own exceptional measures, bore an Olympian head of striking regularity, although somewhat indescribable.  Through his mother, he was the nephew of Oscar Wilde, a fact about which he liked to boast, even under circumstances where such a revelation could only be shocking; as for instance when he enumerated his titles and qualifications before a boxing match (link).  Speaking perfect English, French and German, he possessed a British culture of the best type, and was equally familiar with the spirit of Montparnasse, of Montmartre and even more far-flung boulevards.  In Paris, he lived among a circle of poets and painters, and he published poems which reveal an undeniable poetic vein, in which he frees himself, by means of a rhythmic argot that is often very moving, of his immoderate and, essentially, rather juvenile aspirations.  But he was also on intimate terms with the boxing world, whose society, according to him, he preferred, and he was prouder of his athletic performances than of his literary works.


Jack Johnson vs. Arthur Cravan, Wednesday, April 12, 1916

        Above all, however, he proclaimed his incapacity to live according to the social order and its accepted exigencies and he boasted openly that he had successfully accomplished "the perfect burglary", an exploit that had taken place in a Swiss jewellry-store.  

Arthur Cravan in 1908  


Mina Loy (Mrs. Arthur Cravan), date unknown

II.       Then I returned to France, which means, for the end of this extraordinary story, I have to accept what others have told me.  Cravan, it seems, returned to New York, and succeeded in reaching Mexico, accompanied by the British poetess Mina Loy, whom he had met in our circle of friends and who he had married in Mexico.  They had a daughter, who is, apparently, the image of her father.  In 1918, he was still in Mexico, where he founded a boxing club.  He suffered a bad defeat in a fight against a native adversary, which compromised the success of this enterprise.  Once more he was without resources and considered the idea of living in other, more favourable, countries.  Mina Loy had preceded him to Buenos Aires, where he was to join her by sea, on a little yacht that he was equipping little by little for the long journey.  Every day he left the town to carry provisions to the yacht, which was anchored farther down the bay.  One day he did not come back from his customary visit to the yacht, and since that time nobody has heard from him. It seemed possible for a long time that he might be on some island, or in the prisons of one of the numerous countries at war; and his wife looked for him after the Armistice in every possible place of this kind.  But no jail had heard of him, and it has finally become more and more evident that the mystery surrounding the end of this amazing figure will never be cleared up.                             

From:  Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia,  Arthur Cravan and American Dada, 1957

Fabienne Lloyd (Arthur Cravan's daughter photographed by George Platt Lynes, 1950)

Calle de Lagasca, Madrid, Summer 2010


  1. I have been fascinated with Cravan ever since I read of him in Matthew Josephson's book on Paris. Cravan was an artist, too, and became associated with the New York Dada movement. He mysteriously disappeared in Mexico.

  2. James, good evening and thank you for writing. I can't remember precisely when my own Cravan fascination began, but it might have been when I first read Roger Shattuck's The Banquet Years a long time ago. I borrowed his name for the name of this blog when I learned that my own actual name was unavailable, and it seems to have been an ok, valid idea. I am trying to recall the pseudonym Cravan apparently used (other than the pseudonym Arthur Cravan) when he produced and exhibited small paintings; if it comes back to me, I will re-post. It's uncertain that this actually occurred (I mean a couple of works still exist, which seem to be sort of Cubist pastiches), but that simply adds to the mystery. Please visit this space again. I try to vary the material and keep it as lively as I can. Curtis