when kiki reigned

kiki de montparnasse 2019.png
kiki de montparnasse 2019.png

when kiki reigned

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#art/#history: ‘all i need is an onion, a bit of bread & a bottle of red…& i will always find someone to offer me that.’ it helped that alice prin was unconventionally & extraordinarily easy on the eye. when, at the age of twelve, she broke free from the grandmother who’d barely managed to drag her up, alice fled to paris to live with her mother. it was an arrangement that didn’t last & alice almost immediately fell in with the artists of montparnasse. she began posing (sometimes nude) for photographers, painters & film directors. running with the cool kids meant the muse needed a suitable moniker. she chose kiki - &, as she’d carved her niche deep in the 14th arrondissement, it was only natural that she added ‘de montparnasse’ as her new surname. six years with man ray did not tame her & kiki probably didn’t flinch much when he dumped her for lee miller. after all, alice was nothing if not resourceful. she’d been painting her own canvases, anyway, so had a wildly successful exhibition of her own & was still in demand by paris creatives who, by the age of 28, had crowned her ‘queen of montparnasse’. 1929 was also the year that her autobiography was published. ernest hemingway wrote its introduction, but that didn’t spare it being banned by the US government.

bohemian living isn’t known as the healthiest & kiki ended her life on this day in 1953 by collapsing on the pavement outside her flat - &, with that, tsuguharu foujita proclaimed the glory days of montparnasse to have died along with their queen. kiki proved that women can thrive on their own terms: with a bit of art, an onion, some bread & some red.

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