Alice Prin

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

Alice Prin (Kiki), c. 1920, painted by Gustaw Gwozdecki (1880–1935)
Noire et Blanche by Man Ray, 1926
Kiki and Tsuguharu Foujita, Paris, 1926, by Iwata Nakayama[1]

Early lifeEdit

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.

Kiki de Montparnasse, a 1928 bronze by Pablo Gargallo (1881–1934)
Kiki de Montparnasse, a 1928 bronze by Pablo Gargallo (1881–1934)

Notoriety beginsEdit

Adopting a single name, "Kiki", she became a fixture in the Montparnasse social scene and a popular artist's model, posing for dozens of artists, including Sanyu, Chaim Soutine, Julian Mandel, Tsuguharu Foujita, Constant Detré, Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau, Arno Breker, Alexander Calder, Per Krohg, Hermine David, Pablo Gargallo, Mayo, and Tono Salazar. Moïse 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 can be considered his muse at the time and the subject of some of his best-known images, including the surrealist image Le violon d'Ingres[2] and Noire et blanche.[3]

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

Artwork and autobiographyEdit

Constant Detré, Portrait of Kiki de Montparnasse, c. 1920-1925

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.[4]

Her autobiography was published in 1929 as Kiki's Memoirs, with Ernest Hemingway and Tsuguharu Foujita providing introductions.[5][6] In 1930 the book was translated by Samuel Putnam and published in Manhattan by Black Manikin Press, but it was immediately banned by the United States government. A copy of the first US edition was held in the section for banned books in the New York Public Library through the 1970s. However, the book had been reprinted under the title The Education of a Young Model throughout the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., a 1954 edition by Bridgehead has the Hemingway Introduction and photos and illustrations by Mahlon Blaine). These editions were mainly put out by Samuel Roth. Taking advantage that the banning of the book meant it did not receive copyright protection in the U.S., Roth put out a series of supposedly copyrighted editions (which were never registered with the Library of Congress) which altered the text and added illustrations – line drawings and photographs – which were not by Prin. Editions published in and after 1955 include an extra 10 chapters supposedly written by Prin 23 years after the original book, including a visit to New York where she meets with Samuel Roth and Ernest Hemingway; none of this was true. The original autobiography finally saw a new translation and publication in 1996.[7]

Her music hall performances in black hose and garters included crowd-pleasing risqué songs, which were uninhibited, yet inoffensive. For a few years during the 1930s, she owned the Montparnasse cabaret L'Oasis, which was later renamed "Chez Kiki."[8]

A symbol of bohemian and creative Paris and of the possibility of being a woman and finding an artistic place, at the age of twenty-eight she was declared the Queen of Montparnasse. 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 left Paris to avoid the occupying German army during World War II, which entered the city in June 1940. She did not return to live in the city immediately after the war.

Death and legacyEdit

Prin died in 1953 after collapsing outside her flat in Montparnasse,[9] at the age of fifty-one, apparently of complications of alcoholism or drug dependence. A large crowd of artists and fans attended her Paris funeral and followed the procession to her interment in the Cimetière parisien de Thiais. Her tomb identifies her as "Kiki, 1901–1953, singer, actress, painter, Queen of Montparnasse."[10] Tsuguharu Foujita has said that, with Kiki, the glorious days of Montparnasse were buried forever.

Long after her death, Prin remains the embodiment of the outspokenness, audacity, and creativity that marked that period of life in Montparnasse. She represents a strong artistic force in her own right as a woman. In 1989, biographers Billy Klüver and Julie Martin called her "one of the century's first truly independent women."[11] In her honor, a daylily has been named Kiki de Montparnasse.

Kiki was featured in a three-page obituary in Life magazine in the 29 June 1953 edition.



Kiki's MemoirsEdit

  • Kiki de Montparnasse; Tsuguharu Foujita; Man Ray; Hemingway, Ernest (1928). Les souvenirs de Kiki (in French). Paris: H. Broca. OCLC 459619230.
  • Kiki de Montparnasse; Putnam, Samuel; Hemingway, Ernest (1930). Kiki's memoirs. Paris (4 rue Delambre): E.W. Titus at the sign of the Black Manikin Press. OCLC 463955972. portraits of Kiki by Man Ray, Foujita, Kisling, Per Krogh, Hermine David ... transl. from the French by Samuel Putnam ; introd. by Ernest Hemingway ; full page reproductions of twenty paintings by Kiki ...CS1 maint: location (link)
  • Kiki (1950). The education of a French model: the loves, cares, cartoons, and caricatures of Alice Prin, originally Souvenirs Kiki in French and Kiki's Memoirs in English. Boar's Head. OCLC 1224376087. translated by Samuel Putnam ; and with an introduction by Ernest Hemingway
  • Kiki's Memoirs (1996) translation by Samuel Putnam (original ed. pub by J. Corti, Paris)
    • Kiki's memoirs. Hopewell, N.J.: The Ecco Press. 1996. ISBN 0880014962.
  • Souvenirs, introduction by Ernest Hemingway and Tsugouharu Foujita, forward and notes by Billy Klüver and Julie Martin, translation by Dominique Lablanche, Hazan, 1999, 279 p.
  • Souvenirs retrouvés, preface by Serge Plantureux, José Corti, 2005, 319 p.
  • Kiki's Memoirs (2009) [Recuerdos recobrados] translation by José Pazó Espinosa (in Spanish – published by Nocturna)
  • Kiki Souvenirs, 1929 (2005) translation by N. Semoniff (in Russian – published by Salamandra P.V.V., 2011)
  • Kiki's Memoirs, 1930 (2006) translation by N. Semoniff (in Russian – published by Salamandra P.V.V., 2011)

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ "Iwata Nakayama (1895-1949)". 15 March 2020. Archived from the original on 27 February 2021.
  2. ^ Le violon d'Ingres, Getty Museum
  3. ^ Noire et blanche, Getty Museum
  4. ^ "Kiki of Montparnasse" Archived 27 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Zabrieski Gallery
  5. ^ GAIPA, MARK; SCHOLES, ROBERT (22 September 1999). "SHE "NEVER HAD A ROOM OF HER OWN": HEMINGWAY AND THE NEW EDITION OF KIKI'S MEMOIRS". The Hemingway Review. Hemingway Society via: Free Online Library. Archived from the original on 27 October 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2021. THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION of the Memoirs of Kiki of Montparnasse is back in print after many years. For students of Hemingway, this is an important event for a number of reasons. First, because it includes one of Hemingway's liveliest pieces of critical prose--the introduction written especially for the English version published in Paris in 1930. Second, because of Kiki's importance in the Paris of the twenties.
  6. ^ "The Hemingway Review". The Hemingway Society. The Hemingway Society. Retrieved 30 May 2021. The Hemingway Review --in its current form--was founded by Charles M. "Tod" Oliver in 1981 to serve as the publication for the newly founded Hemingway Society (1980). However, the Review began initially as Oliver's attempt to revive Hemingway notes which was published by Ken Rosen at Dickinson College and Taylor Alderman at Youngstown State University from 1971 to 1974. Oliver published his verison [sic] of Hemingway notes from 1979 until the first issue of The Hemingway Review in 1981.
  7. ^ Franke, Loui (2016). Parisian Postcards: Snapshots of Life in Paris. AuthorHouse. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-4567-6189-9.
  8. ^ Jiminez, Jill Berk (2013). Dictionary of Artists' Models. Routledge. ISBN 9781135959142.
  9. ^ Blume, Mary (12 June 1999). "Kiki of Montparnasse in the New York Times, June 12, 1999". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  10. ^ John Baxter (2014). The Golden Moments of Paris: A Guide to the Paris of the 1920s. Museyon. p. 16. ISBN 9781938450457. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  11. ^ Billy Klüver and Julie Martin, Kiki's Paris, Abrams, 1989
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Nude". Archived from the original on 27 February 2021.
  15. ^ "Kiki de Montparnasse: An Interview with Catel". Retrieved 30 May 2021. A new graphic novel by Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller examines the life of one of the most famous artist's models of all time

External linksEdit

  Media related to Alice Prin at Wikimedia Commons