Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kiki de Montparnasse

The liberated Kiki was a French artists' model, and a sometime nightclub singer, actress and painter. Mainly, she was a party-girl who was found in the right place at the right time.

Kiki was born Alice Prin in 1901. Her chosen name was simply Kiki, but was also referred to as Kiki de Montparnasse.

Kiki helped shape the social scene of 1920s Paris. Known by everyone in the circle of artists and writers that flourished in Montparnasse in the '20s, she was the muse and lover of several artists including Man Ray and posed for dozens of other artists.

I have a couple of books about her including her memoirs, but notably Kiki, Artists and Lovers, 1900-1930 by Billy Kluver and Julie Martin. It's one of my Desert Island Books.

I've saved this picture (below) for a couple of years. It's from The Style Scout; a street fashion blog out of London. I thought the young subject did an admirable job of recreating Kiki's look, whether intentional or not. (I think she knew)


  1. My students loved the paintings of Kiki by Chaim Soutine, van Dongen and Moishe Kisling - we all thought she was a slightly naughty party girl who brought great pleasure into the Montparnasse artists' lives. But why was she banned in the USA? What did she do that was so offensive?

  2. Hels, I just got down my copy of her Memoirs and it the first 30 or so pages she alludes to masturbation, losing her virginity to an old man and working as a prostitute, or tart, as she likes to say. I guess this was all too much for the US.