Guillaume Apollinaire

From New World Encyclopedia

Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire 1914.jpg
Born August 26 1880(1880-08-26)
Rome, Italy1
Died 9 November 1918 (aged 38)
Paris, France
Occupation Poet, Writer, Art critic

Guillaume Apollinaire (in French pronounced [ɡijom apɔliˈnɛʁ]) (August 26, 1880 – November 9, 1918) was a French avant-garde poet, writer, publisher, editor, art critic and dramatic innovator who is known to have directed French poetry into new contemporary directions as well as promoting the art of Cubism. As a writer of periodicals and a founder of a new magazine, Apollinaire saw life in wild almost absurd poetic and artistic values, an example of which is viewed in one of his poems of war: "The sky is starry with Boche shells; The marvelous forest where I live is giving a ball."

Apollinaire became very close to artists Pablo Picasso and Andre Derain, the playwright Alfred Jarry, and the painter Marie Laurencin. As he used the French avant garde movement to experiment with advanced and very daring poetic techniques and ideas, his novel thoughts would also enliven composers and musicians, and Francis Poulenc set Apollinaire's "Le bestiaire" to music.

Among the foremost poets of the early twentieth century, he is credited with coining the word surrealism and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1917, later used as the basis for an opera in 1947).

Surrealism became one of the most important artistic movements of the early twentieth century. A product of an unstable time when the notion of progress was severely undermined through the catastrophe of the First World War, Surrealism played with old norms and conventions of form and, ultimately, of meaning as well.


Born Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky / Wąż-Kostrowicki and raised speaking French, among other languages, he emigrated to France and adopted the name Guillaume Apollinaire. His mother, born Angelica Kostrowicka, was a Polish noblewoman born near Navahrudak (now in Belarus). His father is unknown but may have been Francesco Flugi d'Aspermont, a Swiss Italian aristocrat who disappeared early from Apollinaire's life. He was partly educated in Monaco.

Apollinaire was one of the most popular members of the artistic community of Montparnasse in Paris. His friends and collaborators during that period included Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, André Salmon, Marie Laurencin, André Breton, André Derain, Faik Konica, Blaise Cendrars, Pierre Reverdy, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp. In 1911, he joined the Puteaux Group, a branch of the cubist movement.

On September 7, 1911, police arrested and jailed him on suspicion of stealing the Mona Lisa, but released him a week later. Apollinaire then implicated his friend Pablo Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning in the art theft, but he was also exonerated.[1]

He fought in World War I and, in 1916, received a serious shrapnel wound to the temple. He wrote Les Mamelles de Tirésias while recovering from this wound. During this period he coined the word surrealism in the program notes for Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie's ballet Parade, first performed on May 18, 1917. He also published an artistic manifesto, L'Esprit nouveau et les poètes. Apollinaire's status as a literary critic is primarily based on his famous and influential recognition of the works of Marquis de Sade, whose works had for a long time been obscure. Through Apollinaire Sade's works gained an audience and became influential upon the Dada and Surrealist art movements gaining currency in Montparnasse at the beginning of the twentieth century. Apollinaire saw in Sade "the freest spirit that ever existed."

The war-weakened Apollinaire died of influenza during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Two years after being wounded in World War I, he died at age 38. He was interred in the Le Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.


Apollinaire's first collection of poetry was L'enchanteur pourrissant (1909), but Alcools (1913) established his reputation. The poems, influenced in part by the Symbolists, juxtapose the old and the new, combining traditional poetic forms with modern imagery. In 1913, Apollinaire published the essay Les Peintres cubistes on the cubist painters, a movement which he helped to define. He also coined the term orphism to describe a tendency towards absolute abstraction in the paintings of Robert Delaunay and others.

In 1907, Apollinaire wrote the well-known erotic novel, The Eleven Thousand Rods (Les Onze Mille Verges). Officially banned in France until 1970, various printings of it circulated widely for many years. Apollinaire never publicly acknowledged authorship of the novel. Another erotic novel attributed to him was The Exploits of a Young Don Juan (Les exploits d'un jeune Don Juan), in which the 15-year-old hero fathers three children with various members of his entourage, including his aunt. The book was made into a movie in 1987.

Shortly after his death, Calligrammes, a collection of his concrete poetry (poetry in which typography and layout adds to the overall effect), was published.

In his youth Apollinaire lived for a short while in Belgium, but mastered the Walloon language sufficiently to write poetry through that medium, some of which has survived.


Among the foremost poets of the early twentieth century, Guillaume Apollinaire coined the term "Surrealism" in 1917 in the program notes describing the ballet Parade which was a collaborative work by Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso and Léonide Massine: "From this new alliance, for until now stage sets and costumes on one side and choreography on the other had only a sham bond between them, there has come about, in Parade, a kind of super-realism ('sur-réalisme'), in which I see the starting point of a series of manifestations of this new spirit ('esprit nouveau')." He is also credited with writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1917).

Began in the mid-1920s, surrealism is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members. From the Dada activities of World War I Surrealism was formed with the most important center of the movement in Paris and from the 1920s spreading around the globe.

His poems and stage works were instrumental in leading French poetry into evoking expressions of abstraction and daring concepts. His status as a literary critic is most famous and influential in his recognition of the Marquis de Sade, whose works were for a long time obscure, but which gained in popularity as an influence upon the Dada and Surrealist art movements at Montparnasse at the beginning of the twentieth century. Apollinaire admired Sade as "the freest spirit that ever existed."

Selected bibliography

Henri Rousseau, "La Muse inspirant le poète," 1909. (A portrait of Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin).


  • Le bestiaire ou le cortège d’Orphée, 1911
  • Alcools, 1913
  • Vitam impendere amori', 1917
  • Calligrammes, poèmes de la paix et de la guerre 1913-1916, 1918 (published shortly after Apollinaire's death)
  • Il y a..., 1925
  • Ombre de mon amour, poems addressed to Louise de Coligny-Châtillon, 1947
  • Poèmes secrets à Madeleine, pirated edition, 1949
  • Le Guetteur mélancolique, previously unpublished works, 1952
  • Poèmes à Lou, 1955
  • Soldes, previously unpublished works, 1985
  • Et moi aussi je suis peintre, album of drawings for Calligrammes, from a private collection, published 2006


  • Mirely ou le Petit Trou pas cher, 1900
  • "Que faire?",
  • Les Onze Mille Verges ou les amours d'un hospodar, 1907
  • L'enchanteur pourrissant, 1909
  • L'Hérèsiarque et Cie (short story collection), 1910
  • Les exploits d’un jeune Don Juan, 1911
  • La Rome des Borgia, 1914
  • La Fin de Babylone - L'Histoire romanesque 1/3, 1914
  • Les Trois Don Juan - L'Histoire romanesque 2/3, 1915
  • Le poète assassiné, 1916
  • La femme assise, 1920
  • Les Épingles (short story collection), 1928

Plays and screenplays

  • Les Mamelles de Tirésias, play, 1917
  • La Bréhatine, screenplay (collaboration with André Billy), 1917
  • Couleurs du temps, 1918
  • Casanova, published 1952

Articles, essays, etc.

  • Le Théâtre Italien, illustrated encyclopedia, 1910
  • Pages d'histoire, chronique des grands siècles de France, chronicles, 1912
  • Méditations esthétiques. Les peintres cubistes, 1913
  • La Peinture moderne, 1913
  • L'Antitradition futuriste, manifeste synthèse, 1913
  • Case d'Armons, 1915
  • L'esprit nouveau et les poètes, 1918
  • Le Flâneur des Deux Rives, chronicles, 1918


  1. Time Magazine, STEALING THE MONA LISA, 1911 Retrieved September 19, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Adéma, Marcel. Apollinaire. Paris: Plon, 1954. OCLC 222067976
  • Adéma, P. Guillaume Apollinaire. Paris: la Table ronde, 1968. OCLC 1003860
  • Bates, S. Guillaume Apollinaire. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967. OCLC 649498
  • Breuning, L.C. Guillaume Apollinaire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. ISBN 0231029950
  • Couffignal, R. Apollinaire. University of Alabama Press, 1975. ISBN 978-0817373221
  • Grimm, J. Guillaume Apollinaire. München: C.H. Beck, 1993. ISBN 978-3406350542
  • Mathews, T. Reading Apollinaire. New York: St Martin's Press, 1964. OCLC 1342408
  • Shattuck, Roger. The Banquet Years. New York: Vintage Books, 1968. OCLC 437218
  • Steegmuller, Francis. Apollinaire, Poet among the Painters. New York: Farrar, Straus 1963. OCLC 965238

External links

All links retrieved July 18, 2017.


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