Profile Image of Kiki of Montparnasse

Kiki of Montparnasse

1901-10-02 - 1953-04-29

Alice Prin born in 1901 as an illegitimate child and was raised in poverty by her grandmother. At age twelve, she was sent by train to live with her mother, a linotypist, in Paris in order to help earn an income for her family. By 14, she started posing as a nude model for various artists, this created discord with her mother, who finally disowned her. The teenage Kiki determined to make her living exclusively by posing for artists, but she soon became a local celebrity who symbolized the Montparnasse quarter's nonconformity and its rejection of the social norms of the petite bourgeoisie. In Autumn 1921, Prin met the American visual artist Man Ray, and the two soon entered into a stormy eight-year relationship. She lived with Man Ray in his studio on rue Campagne-Première until 1929 during which time he made hundreds of portraits of her. She became his muse at the time and the subject of some of his best-known images. By 1929, Prin had reached the zenith of her fame. A symbol of bohemian and creative Paris and of the possibility of being a woman and finding an artistic place, she was elected the Queen of Montparnasse at the age of twenty-eight. Despite her local fame, she continued to live a hand-to-mouth existence. Even during difficult times, she maintained her positive attitude, saying "all I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red [wine]; and I will always find somebody to offer me that." She died at the age of fifty-one on after collapsing outside her flat in Montparnasse, apparently of complications of alcoholism or drug dependence.