09/20/12 - 0 Comments
Xavier Girard Captures Kiki, the Unofficial Queen of Montparnasse
In the 1920s, France was recovering from the debacle that was World War I. In Paris’ artsy Left Bank area, recovery was made easy thanks to the wonderful distraction of Alice Ernestine Prin, otherwise known as Kiki, the Queen of Montparnasse.
Kiki wasn’t a queen in conventional terms—she had no royal blood in her family nor was she a ruler of any sort. Rather, she was viewed as a queen to the male artists who were captivated by her. Indeed she was coined as a muse for some of the 20th century’s most prized creative specimens in Paris.
Xavier Girard, the former curator of the Matisse Museum, helps us explore a side of Kiki perhaps lesser known in these modern days. His 300-page art book delves into the artistic, social and historical impact she played in the Montparnasse neighborhood. As viewers, we are afforded an inside peek at the aura and power that inspired these male talents to capture her in their paintings and photographs, some of which were Modigliani, Alexander Calder and André Kertész.
Kiki was romantically linked with Man Ray, a famous French photographer, throughout most of the 1920s. He was responsible for hundreds upon hundreds of portraits capturing her essence. Also included as some of her most well-known images are the surrealist Le Violon d’Ingres and Noire et Blanche, both breathtaking.
Don’t be confounded into thinking Kiki was just merely a muse to talented men, however, since she was multi-talented herself. As a French country girl-turned-model-singer-actress-artist, she was considered one of Montparnasse’s, and the 20th century’s, first truly independent females. Kiki appeared in nine short films, most being highly experimental. Her most famous was Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mécanique.
However, like many inspirational figures before and after her, she lived a short and toilsome life. Kiki died in 1953 in Sanary-sur-Mer, France at 51. The official reason was deduced as alcohol-drug related issues. After this, Life Magazine honored her with a colossal three-page obituary in their June 29, 1953 edition.
Her tomb engraving is perhaps most powerful of all: “Kiki, 1901–1953, singer, actress, painter, Queen of Montparnasse.” The queen, who was never truly a queen at all, has left a memorable mark on French society, and that is exactly what Girard is aiming to portray in his Assouline book, Kiki de Montparnasse: Paris in the 1920s.
Pre-order it now, or wait for its release date in February of next year—either way, this is a book you definitely shouldn’t be skipping out on!