Alice Prin

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Alice Ernestine Prin (2 October 1901 – 29 April 1953), nicknamed Queen of Montparnasse, and often known as Kiki de Montparnasse, was a French artist model, nightclub singer, actress, memoirist, and painter. She flourished in, and helped define, the liberated, early 1920s culture of Paris.


Early life

Alice Prin was born in Châtillon-sur-Seine, Côte d'Or. An illegitimate child, she was raised in abject poverty by her grandmother. At age twelve, she was sent to live with her mother in Paris in order to find work. She first worked in shops and bakeries, but by the age of fourteen, she was posing nude for sculptors, which created discord with her mother.

Notoriety begins

Adopting a single name, "Kiki", she became a fixture in the Montparnasse social scene and a popular artist model, posing for dozens of artists, including Chaim Soutine, "Julian Mandel" (a pseudonym), 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.

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 [1] and Noire et blanche.[2]

She appeared in nine short and often experimental films, including Fernand Léger's Ballet mécanique without any credit.

Artwork and autobiography

A painter in her own right, in 1927 Prin had a sold-out exhibition of her paintings at the Galerie au Sacre du Printemps in Paris. Signing her work with her chosen single name, Kiki, she usually noted the year. Her drawings and paintings comprise portraits, self-portraits, social activities, fanciful animals, and dreamy landscapes composed in a light, slightly uneven, expressionist style that is a reflection of her easy-going manner and boundless optimism.[3]

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