Guillaume Apollinaire was a French Poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist and art critic of Polish descent. Apollinaire is considered one of the foremost poets of the early 20th century, as well as one of the most impassioned defenders of Cubism and a forefather of Surrealism.
Born in Rome in 1880 to a Polish mother and after an unconventional upbringing in the South of France, he moved to Paris. In Paris, Apollinaire submerged himself in the city’s bohemian life. He became friends with the prominent art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and with new artists like Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Henri Rousseau and Marie Laurencin. (Laurencin was also his lover for several years.) He began writing about avant-garde art movements for several magazines, discussing new and important artists such as Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Giorgio de Chirico and Marcel Duchamp. His book The Cubist Painters, published in 1913, was the first serious consideration of the Cubist movement led by Picasso and Braque. He was also one of the founders of the literary journal Soirées de Paris in 1914.
Apollinaire also experimented with the visual appearance of his poems, using unconventional layouts and typography. He pioneered a type of verse called an “ideogram,” which was equally a picture and a poem: the lines of the poem were arranged in the shape of the object it described, such as a heart, a bird or the Eiffel Tower. Apollinaire frequently collaborated with other avant-garde writers who shared his interests, including Jean Cocteau and Gertrude Stein.
Apollinaire volunteered for military service during World War I and was assigned to an artillery regiment. He received a head wound in 1916 and was discharged. Having recently obtained French citizenship, he returned to Paris and continued to write poetry and criticism. Apollinaire married Jacqueline Kolb in 1918. He died just a few months later, on November 9, 1918, in Paris, a victim of the Spanish influenza epidemic that was sweeping across Europe.