Sunday, March 14

Kiki de Montparnasse, 1920's French Muse today

Alice Ernestine Prin was born in Châtillon-sur-Seine, Côte d'Or in 1901 but she became better known as Kiki de Montparnasse. She was a French artists' muse, nightclub singer, actress, memoirist, painter. She flourished in, and helped define, the 1920s liberated culture of Paris. In 1989, biographers Billy Klüver and Julie Martin called her "one of the century's first truly independent women".

"Je vis, je respire, je crois en l'avenir. J'ai un amant qui m'aime, que j'aime, nous serons heureux. Tout va bien." - Kiki in her Mémoires.

A photograph of Kiki by Julian Mandel, c. 1920

Kiki became a fixture in the Montparnasse social scene and a popular artists' model, posing for dozens of artists, including Chaim Soutine, Julian Mandel, Tsuguharu Foujita, Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau, Arno Breker, Alexander Calder, Per Krohg, Hermine David, Pablo Gargallo, Mayo, and Tono Salazar. Moise Kisling painted a portrait of Kiki titled Nu assis, one of his best known.

Kiki de Montparnasse, Bronze 1928, by Pablo Gargallo ,Musée de Louvre

Alice Prin (Kiki), ca. 1920, by Gustaw Gwozdeck

Her companion for most of the 1920s was Man Ray, who made hundreds of portraits of her. She is the subject of some of his best-known images including the notable surrealist image Le violon d'Ingres and Noire et blanche. She appeared in nine short and often experimental films, including Fernand Léger's Ballet mécanique.

Le Violon, Kiki photographed by May Ray.

Noire et Blanche, 1926 by May Ray.

As in the 1920's this muse is today inspiration for a tasteful and sexy French style lingerie store, Kiki de Montparnasse. The theatrically decorated shops in LA and NY transport you to an intimate feminine set where you can find not only beautiful lingerie but books, films and artistic nude photographs. Visit their website at

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