Short Bio on Antonin Artaud

Topics: Antonin Artaud, Theatre of Cruelty, Vincent van Gogh Pages: 5 (1974 words) Published: March 13, 2011
Antonin Artaud
Antonin Artaud was born on September the 4th, 1896, in Marseille, France. He was son to Eupharasie Nalpas and Antoine-Roi Artaud. Both his parents were natives of Smyrna, an ancient Greek city modernly known as Izmir. When he was four years old, Artaud had a severe case of meningitis, which gave him a nervous irritable temperament during his adolescence. He also suffered from neuralgia, stammering and sever bouts of clinical depression, this was treated with the use of opium resulting in a life-long addiction. It was arranged by his parents for Artaud to stay in a sanatorium for long periods of time. This lasted 5 years, with a break of two months, June and July 1916, when Artaud was conscripted into the French Army. He was allegedly discharged due to his self-induced habit of sleep-walking. During Artaud’s “rest cures” at the sanatorium, he read Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, and Edgar Allan Poe. In May 1919, the director of the sanatorium prescribed laudanum for Artaud, precipitating a life-long addiction to that and other opiates. In March 1920, Artaud moved to Paris to pursue a career as a writer, and instead discovered he had a talent for avant-garde theatre. Whilst training and performing with the most acclaimed directors of the day, most notably Charles Dullin and Georges Pitoeff, he continued to write both poetry and essays. At the age of 27, he mailed some of his poems to the journal La Nouvelle Revue Française; they were rejected, but the editor, Jacques Rivière, wrote back seeking to understand him, and a relationship in letters had developed. This epistolary work, Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière, is Artaud's first major publication. In 1925, Artaud effectively assumed control directing the surrealist movement, writing many articles for The Surrealist Revolution and running the Bureau of Surrealist Research, a loose affiliation of surrealists interested in exploring automatic writing, recording dreams and engaging in anything which rejected rationality. After about eighteen months, he grew increasingly frustrated by what he perceived as the surrealists' unwillingness to do any more than disrupt bourgeois art events and create scandal. Artaud cultivated a great interest in cinema as well and in 1926-28, Artaud ran the Alfred Jarry Theatre, along with Roger Vitrac. He produced and directed original works by Vitrac, as well as pieces by Claudel and Strindberg. The theatre advertised that they would produce Artaud's play Jet de sang in their 1926-1927 season, but it was never mounted and was not premiered until 40 years later. The Theatre was extremely short-lived, but was attended by an enormous range of European artists. In 1931 Artaud saw Balinese dance performed at the Paris Colonial Exposition. Although he did not fully understand the intentions and ideas behind traditional Balinese performance, it influenced many of his ideas for Theatre. Also during this year, the 'First Manifesto for a Theatre of Cruelty' was published in La Nouvelle Revue Française which would later appear as a chapter in 'The Theatre and Its Double'. In 1935, Artaud's production of his adaptation of Shelley's The Cenci premiered, but The Cenci was a commercial failure. After the production failed, Artaud received a grant to travel to Mexico, where he met his first (Mexican) Parisian friend, the Painter Federico Cantú in 1936 when he gave lectures on the decadence of Western civilization. He also studied and lived with the Tarahumaran people and experimented with peyote, recording his experiences, which were later released in a volume called Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara. The content of this work closely resembles the poems of his later days, concerned primarily with the supernatural. Artaud also recorded his horrific withdrawal from heroin upon entering the land of the Tarahumaras; having deserted his last supply of the drug at a mountainside. Artaud would return to opiates later in life. In 1937, Artaud...
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