Maybe it’s because of my love of Paris, a city whose art, architecture, and vibe I can’t get enough of. Or because I strongly believe that freedom is a right, not a privilege. Either way, Kiki’s story allowed me to live vicariously, thrillingly, through her.
Fresh, evocative, and raw, Kiki de Montparnasse teems with life, passion, and tragedy. The graphic novel is beautifully illustrated and puts you right at the heart of bohemian Paris.
What I loved about this book was the historical context that colours Kiki’s life. Kiki lived in Paris during such an exciting time in the history of art, as well as the darker history of World War Two.
The life of a “poor artist” has alway fascinated me; how they dedicate their lives to creating art, one day living hand to mouth, the next living the high life. Kiki de Montparnasse takes us into the wheelings and dealings of the art sellers, the jealousies between artists, their wives and the models, the scandalous parties, the raunchy cabaret shows…
The story follows the life of Kiki, née Alice Prin, a mischievous little girl born in Châtillon-sur-Seine at the turn of the twentieth century. Raised by her grandmother, Alice grows up poor, but in a house full of love and folly.
Eventually, Alice’s mother sends for her, and they are reunited in Paris. However, the teenage Alice is treated like a burden, and she is sent out to work at menial jobs to help pay the rent.
At 14, Alice is asked to model for an artist, in the nude, for the equivalent of a week’s salary. When her mother eventually finds out, there are fireworks, and the young Miss Prin is disowned. She stays in Paris, continues to model, and soon becomes a muse for various artists, as well as a singer, dancer, artist, and actress. She models for and meets her longtime lover Man Ray, and Tsuguharu Foujita, Jean Cocteau, Moise Kisling, Modigliani, Picasso and other painters and photographers of note.
A free spirit and charismatic beyond measure, Alice becomes a cabaret singer and dancer, often living hand to mouth, at times financially supported by her many lovers. She eventually becomes known as Kiki de Montparnasse, a symbol of the newly liberated culture of Paris.
Funny, heartbreakingly sad, generous to her core, swearing and drinking like a sailor: Kiki lived a remarkable life, a muse to some of the greatest artists in 1920s Paris.