March 4, 2010


This painting of mine is based on the Man Ray photo of Kiki de Montparnasse, Parisian muse, model and general gal about town. She helped define the liberated culture of Paris in the 20's.

A fixture of Montparnasse's social scene, Kiki was a popular artists' model posing for Soutine, Foujita, Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau and Alexander Calder to name a few. She was the companion of Man Ray who created many well-known images of her. (think "cello")

The book Kiki's Paris, Artists and Lovers 1900-1930 is my "Desert Island" book. The book is a bible; a veritable encylopedia of who was active in Montparnasse in the 20's. Picasso, the Steins, Matisse, Modigliani and Hemingway were all within Kiki's orbit. Published in 1989, biographers Billy Klüver and Julie Martin called Kiki "one of the century's first truly independent women."

In my rendition of Kiki I simplied the details and of course added some colours. I could imagine her in burgundies and golds. I corrected her wardrobe malfunction.


Laura in Paris said...

I love your painting of Kiki-the-Muse. Nowadays Montparnasse has a high concentration of restuarants, cinemas, and the more than ugly Montparnasse tower. But I recently discovered Montparnasse Museum in an alley full of small houses and artists ateliers .. I can see Kiki there.

Hels said...

I had not seen the book Kiki's Paris, Artists and Lovers 1900-1930 until last year and went immediately to the library at work to get them to buy a copy for the students. Great book!

I imagine it wasn't easy being a successful full time muse, model and friend of modernist artists. She had to be interesting to look at (not necessarily gorgeous); witty; playful; a good drinker; preferably a half way decent artist in her own right or at least involved in the arts; and well connected in Paris' demi monde. And Kiki was :)

Lorenzo said...

Love the painting and I have downloaded it on to my computer to use as the Windows wallpaper.

The book sounds like a great read. As I find that period in Paris and the artistic milieu of Montparnasse fascinating, I will just have to pick it up somewhere.

A couple of years ago here in Madrid there was a wonderful exhibit on Modigliani at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museuem ( It discussed the artists colony in Montparnasse and Modigliani's friends there, including Chagall, Brancusi and some of the others you mention. The show included a couple of fine portraits of Kiki.

By the way, does the book make much mention of his wife, Jeanne Hébuterne? She was a very promising painter herself. She had one daughter with him and was several months pregnant when Modigliani died from his tuberculosis related problems. Tragically, she was so distraught over his death that she hurled herself out a window and ended her life, at the age of 21. So shocking to consider how a young, talented, beautiful woman, with a two year old daughter and another on the way, could do this. What dark currents roiled the waters of these sublime artists.

Well, I have certainly have ended this comment on a downer I'm afraid. But I will get the book and continue to enjoy your version of Kiki.

Giulia said...

I'm feeling the need to change my name to something like Kiki or Thora. Evidently in some of these cases, appellation might be destiny. When is your shop opening, she asked impatiently, ready to spend money.

ciao-meow, Hazel-Pup

Monica said...

Great painting! I think it's an improvement on her wardrobe. :)

And thanks so much for the book info... has gone in my wishlist.

The Clever Pup said...

Wow, what a great bunch of comments.

Lorenzo, yes. The book does make mention of Jeanne and Modi and her tragic death and how her friends had to wheelbarrow her body to her parents but they wouldn't accept her suicide. I was at their grave in Pere Lachaise.