Kiki of Montparnasse
I ran across an interesting character yesterday. I was looking at a series of photographs of Alexander Calder from his stay in Paris in the late 20’s and early 1930’s. Calder took up residence in Paris while honing his skills as an artist and sculptor. He was photographed with a woman named Kiki of Montparnasse (photo left is Calder and Kiki, photo credit: Calder Foundation). She was also known as the Queen of Montparnasse. Well, this made me curious… who was this woman and where did you get such a title? So I began to dig.
Montparnasse is an arrondissement (neighborhood) of Paris. It is famous for a few things… today it has the Montparnasse Tower and the Montparnasse Cemetery (Brancusi and Jean-Paul Sartre are buried there)… in the 20’s & 3o’s, it was where many avant-garde artists lived and worked… Picasso, Calder, Man Ray, Miro… and Alice Prin, or Kiki.
She was a cabaret singer, a painter, a writer, and a muse. She was independent, audacious and creative. She had a presence. And she was on the arm of Man Ray for many years appearing in many of his photographs. She posed for countless artists including Picasso, Modigliani, Picabia, Cocteau and Kisling, to name a few. She was celebrated… but she was NO angel.
Happily, Kiki’s story is being explored by… cartoonists… There is a graphic novel ( Kiki de Montparnasse: A Graphic Biography) and an animated short film was made in 2012. It has made the film festival rounds and I am enthralled with the animation style. Here’s the animation trailer. Enjoy.