Arthur Cravan - fascinating Jack Johnson opponent
A non-pro French dadaist who made his debut against a 242lb Johnson (apparently with no real background whatsoever). Boxrec claims film exists. Here's his Wiki entry. Interesting guy.
I haven't read Unforgivable Blackness - anyone know if this is detailed there?
Arthur Cravan was born and educated in Lausanne, Switzerland, then at an English military academy from which he was expelled after spanking a teacher. After this he travelled widely throughout Europe and America during World War I using a variety of passports and documents, some of them forged. He declared no single nationality and claimed instead to be "a citizen of 20 countries".
Cravan set out to promote himself as an eccentric and an art critic though his interest lay in showing off a powerful, striking personal style rather than discussing art. he would stage various public spectacles and stunts with himself at the centre, once acting on the front of a line of carts where he paraded his skills as a boxer and singer, although he never pursued either of these activities on stage with anyone else.
His style of looking for the striking and shocking had some roots in the contemporary cult of the young man of action (athletes, soldiers, flamboyant artists) but strongly prefigured dadaism and even rock'n'roll attitudes - Cravan's way of flaunting the brazen and semi-ridiculous had more than a passing resemblance to the showmanship of Little Richard or Marc Bolan a half-century later. From 1911 to 1915 he put out a critical magazine, Maintenant! ("Now!") which appeared in five issues; it was gathered together and reprinted by Eric Losfeld in 1921 as J'étais Cigare in the dadaist collection "Le Désordre" The tone was designed to cause sensation; in a piece about the 1912 arts salon he opined that a self-portrait by Marie Laurencin made you feel she needed some shagging, a remark which drove her lover and influential modernist critic Guillaume Apollinaire to fury and a bid for a duel. But his rough vibrant poetry, and provocative, anarchistic lectures and public appearances (often degenerating into drunken brawls) also earned him the admiration of Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, André Breton, and other young artists and intellectuals.
After the outbreak of the First World War Cravan left Paris to avoid getting drafted. At a stopover in the Canary Islands a boxing match was arranged with the reigning world champion Jack Johnson to raise money for Cravan's passage to the United States. Cravan was touted on the posters as "European champion"; Johnson, who didn't know who the man was, knocked him solidly out and in his autobiography noticed that Cravan must have been out of training. In retrospect, the incident has been claimed as an archetypal example of the "anyone can reinvent himself" philosophy that's present in many later artistic movements: Cravan didn't need to be a professional boxer to lay a claim on being world champion, just like Bob Dylan, Madonna or Johnny Rotten didn't need to prove they were great singers in the normal sense of music ´criticism to go ahead and claim to be singers. [Note: boxrec lists the bout as in Spain. -djm]
His personal style, thus, involved continuous re-invention of his public persona and various outrageous statements and boasts. His pride in being the nephew of Oscar Wilde even produced hoaxes - documents and poems - Cravan wrote and then signed "Oscar Wilde". In 1913 he published an article in his self-edited review Maintenant claiming that his uncle was still alive and had visited him in Paris. This rumour was taken up even by the New York Times. In fact, the two of them never met.
After arriving in New York in 1914, he moved on to South America three years later for the same reason when the United States entered the war. In Mexico City he met his future wife Mina Loy. After their marriage in 1918 they planned a trip from Mexico to Argentina. Without enough money for both of them to book passage on the same vessel, Loy took the trip on a regular ship and Cravan set out alone on a sailboat to Argentina. Cravan never arrived and it is presumed that he capzised in a storm raging at sea in the following days.
Intermittent and spurious reports of his sighting continued for many years.
One report has it that he returned to New York and then Paris, took the name Dorian Hope, a vagrant poet who sold forged Oscar Wilde manuscripts in the early 1920s.
His only daughter, Fabienne Lloyd, was born in England on April 5, 1919 and later went to the United States together with her mother. Her descendants live in Aspen, Colorado.
Last edited by djm; 10-07-2009 at 05:55 PM.
Reason: clean up Wiki formatting