The Queen of Montmartre
March 30, 2007 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Kiki de Montparnasse aka Alice Ernestine Prin was a French country girl down on her luck in early 20th century Paris. She would however become a great muse of the avant-garde art scene of the Années Folles, posing for and befriending the likes of Chaim Soutine, Moise Kisling, Amedeo Modigliani, Utrillo, Foujita, Calder, Per Krogh, Pascin, and, most famously, Man Ray, with whom he entertained a steady (if not particularly monogamous) relationship before Lee Miller. During their tumultuous eight-year romance, Kiki was the model for several of his most famous works (with some Surrealist art films thrown in for good measure). She also competed with Jean Cocteau for the affections of sailors in Southern France, was a good friend of Tristan Tzara and received letters of support of Aragon and Desnos when she was jailed for public disorder. A life of excess that ultimately led to her early death in destitution in 1953 also provided stuff for several biographies (the latest one, appropriately enough, a graphic novel), as well as a Hemingway-prefaced autobiography which was banned for obscenity in the US until the '70s, and the odd art exhibition...
posted by Skeptic (14 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
(To which I must add: Kiki AND Lee Miller? Man Ray was a lucky, lucky bastard...)
posted by Skeptic at 2:20 PM on March 30, 2007

Graphic novel
posted by Skeptic at 2:21 PM on March 30, 2007

There is a fantastic photo book about this period which, despite being about some of the stellar heavyweights of 20th century art in Paris, is rightly titled "Kiki's Paris." She was only a model but she was utterly ubiquitous. She danced and drank with them, and her image (that nose and cropped hair) is a thread which runs through the work of some brilliant and totally disparate artists.

You can download a brief video (also featuring Fujita) of her posing here.

Great post!
posted by fire&wings at 2:42 PM on March 30, 2007

fire&wings, the British Pathé people have weirdly enough not noticed it, but the "man sculpting her head in telephone wire" shouldn't anybody else than Alexander Calder in his bohemian days...
posted by Skeptic at 2:48 PM on March 30, 2007

Excellent post, Skeptic!
You covered all the bases of a fascinating subject.
posted by Dizzy at 2:53 PM on March 30, 2007

Marvellous and thorough post Skeptic. Enjoyed learning about Kiki and more about that time/world. Loved her paintings.
posted by nickyskye at 3:32 PM on March 30, 2007

Great post! Man Ray is my personal hero.
posted by mullingitover at 3:47 PM on March 30, 2007

She was only a model



The links make it clear that she was also a visual and performing artist, though one could, I suppose, argue that her life was her art. She appeared in films, danced, and sang: she was a performer par excellence. She was far more than only a model.
posted by jokeefe at 3:53 PM on March 30, 2007

You can totally see her boobs on that book cover.
posted by redteam at 4:14 PM on March 30, 2007

Hey, thanks. So now I know who the model was for one of Ray's most famous photographs, the backshot of Kiki with the ...umm..musical clefs?...painted on her lower back.
posted by kozad at 5:12 PM on March 30, 2007

She shall be DING!
posted by hal9k at 6:44 PM on March 30, 2007

Superb post! Thank you, Skeptic.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:47 PM on March 30, 2007

Nothing is sacred.
posted by nax at 5:06 PM on March 31, 2007

Woo, I have the Man Ray tattoo. I knew her alias was Kiki but I didn't know there was a last name to it, and I didn't know her real name at all. Thanks!
posted by etoile at 1:19 PM on April 4, 2007

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