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Though many have never heard her name, Alice Prin – Kiki de Montparnasse – was the icon of 1920s Paris. She captivated as a ground-breaking nightclub performer, wrote a bestselling memoir, sold out exhibitions of her paintings, and shared drinks and ideas with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Peggy Guggenheim, and Marcel Duchamp. She also shepherded along the career of a then-unknown American photographer: Man Ray.
Following Kiki in the years between 1921 and 1929, when she lived and worked with Man Ray, Kiki Man Ray charts their complicated entanglement and reveals how Man Ray – always the unabashed careerist – went on to become one of the most famous photographers of the twentieth century, enjoying wealth and prestige, while Kiki’s legacy was lost.
But this isn’t a story of an overbearing male genius and his defeated muse. During the 1920s it was Kiki, not Man Ray, who was the brighter of the two rising stars and a powerful figure among the close-knit community of models, painters, writers and café wastrels who made their homes in gritty Montparnasse. Following the couple as they created art, struggled for power and competed for fame, Kiki Man Ray illuminates for the first time Kiki’s seminal influence on the culture of 1920s Paris, and challenges ideas about artists and muses, and the lines separating the two.
‘Kiki de Montparnasse was more than a muse – she was a vivacious, independent woman whose talent and magnetism helped make Paris the center of the art world in the 1920s. In Mark Braude’s riveting cultural history, the Queen of Montparnasse rises again. This is a lively and compassionate tribute to the chanteuse, model, and portraitist who held center stage in her life, and who inspired some of the finest Surrealist art of the twentieth century.’ Heather Clark, author of Pulitzer Prize-finalist Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath