The first thing I see in a man is the woman by his side
March 27, 2011 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Natalie Barney was a muse for her age. A chance encounter with Oscar Wilde when only six years old ( she would later have an affair with his niece Dolly) helped change her outlook on life.
She moved to Paris and in 1909 started her famed salon at Rue 20 Jacob, with its Temple de l'Amitié (Fr.) sometimes called the Sapphic centre of the Western World and which ran for 60 years.
This was where Ezra Pound met Olga Rudge. Although polyamorous Natalie had a 50 year relationship with Romaine Brooks.
In 1927 she started an Académie des Femmes (Women's Academy) to honor women writers. The cast of females involved in Natalie Barney’s Fridays is vast and includes: Sylvia Beach, Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy, Colette, Nancy Cunard, Janet Flanner, Radclyff Hall, Hadine Hwang, Zita Jungman, Marie Laurencin, Toupie Lowther, Liane de Pougy, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Renee Vivien, and Virginia Wolff.
Here are a couple of brief interviews with her biographer; and some photos.
In 2009 Dayton got around to honoring her but by July 2010 the marker had been vandalized.
posted by adamvasco (13 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent post. Thank you.
posted by Fizz at 8:13 AM on March 27, 2011

Wow, how did I not know about her before now? Just goes to show how connected some of these literary figures were around this period...
posted by anaximander at 8:15 AM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wonderful, fascinating post, thanks!

In far less weighty matters, this photo screams 1970s.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:26 AM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I need to do that Vita Sackville-West FPP...
posted by Artw at 8:51 AM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I liked the article about the temple del l'Amitié. It sounds like the neighbors would never have been short of a topic of conversation.
posted by rongorongo at 9:53 AM on March 27, 2011

I need to do that Vita Sackville-West FPP.

Yes, please.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:20 PM on March 27, 2011

Dead ringer
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:57 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You go, girl.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:47 PM on March 27, 2011

Am I an evil person for wanting to base a LARP around her?
posted by happyroach at 2:44 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of her tableaux vivants was a play based on the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland .... The Barney's next door neighbor Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, played the Queen....

posted by Twang at 4:34 PM on March 27, 2011

In all seriousness, this is a wonderful article about a personality that is fascinating both in her ability to live her life the way she wanted, and also in her ability to sponsor artists. My brilliant wife, who has an interest in non-heteronormative history said "Oh wow" several times reading your post. Which is a pretty good compliment AFAIC.
posted by happyroach at 12:08 AM on March 28, 2011

This is brilliant. I would love to hear more about her childhood encounter with Oscar Wilde, though! Is there any more detailed description or perhaps an account from his perspective?

(As if the image of Wilde on the Jersey Shore isn't enough.)
posted by Judith Butlerian Jihad at 12:23 AM on March 28, 2011

Also, the "Dolly" link is excellent, if only for this line: this photograph of Dolly was taken after she slit her wrists in the Hôtel Astoria when Miss Barney ran off to St Petersburg after that faithless actress ...
posted by Judith Butlerian Jihad at 12:28 AM on March 28, 2011

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