0037 Phonemes, Graphemes, Dabs of Paint: Roman Jakobson, the Russian avant-garde and the search for the shared basic elements of painting and poetry

  • Bregje Hofstede (Author)
    University of Utrecht

    Bregje Hofstede studied Art History and French Literature at the University of Utrecht and at Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne, and worked at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. She is presently a research intern at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam while finishing her research master's thesis on the subject of twentieth century art theories of illustration, and particularly the work of Alexander Alexeieff (1901-1982). Her main current interests lie in art theory and the relations of text and image, literature and visual art. She has published about the interplay between Picasso's illustrations and Reverdy's handwriting in Le Chant des Morts, as well as literary work.

Identifiers (Article)


The subject of this paper is the supposed affinity between painting and poetry as theorised by the linguist Roman Jakobson who played a crucial role for the Russian avant-garde and its close association of painting and poetry. The paper focuses on Jakobson's relation to the two 1913 manifestos "The Word as Such" and "The Letter as Such", written by the poets Chlebnikov and Kruchenyck, and on Jakobson's own (lost) reply. It calls into question the accuracy of Jakobson's claim of having influcenced the poets' manifestos, and describes what Jakobson considered to be the shared 'core elements' of the visual and literary arts. According to him, they share a visuality, not on the level of the written sign or grapheme, but on a deeper level, visible only to the mind's eye.


Roman Jakobson, Kazimir Malevich, Velimir Chlebnikov, Russian avant-garde, Zaum, phonology, grapheme, faktura, synaesthesia, painting, poetry, Aleksej E. Kručenych, Russland, Avantgarde