Alice Prin

From Academic Kids

Kiki, was the stage name for Alice Ernestine Prin (19011953), a nightclub singer, actress, model, and painter.

Biography and art

Born in Chatillon-sur-Seine, Côte d'Or, Burgundy, France on October 2, 1901. An illegitimate child, she was raised in abject poverty by her grandmother. At age 12 she was sent to Paris to be educated and by age 14 she was posing nude for sculptors.

Missing image
Kiki of Montparnasse

Alice Prin became a popular artists' model. Man Ray made numerous photographs of her, and Moise Kisling painted a portrait titled, Nu assis.

The symbol of bohemian and creative Paris, at age 28 she was declared Queen of Montparnasse. Her music hall performances in black hose and garters included crowd-pleasing raunchy songs, which were both uninhibited yet inoffensive. She also had roles in nine films, including Fernand Leger's famous Ballet mécanique.

She was the mistress of Man Ray, and a friend of Chaim Soutine, Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst and other artists.

Ernest Hemingway and Tsuguharu Foujita provided the introduction for her 1929 memoirs. The book was published the following year in New York City by Black Manikin Press but banned by the United States government. Kiki's Memoirs remained barred in the United States as late as the 1970s when it was still held in the section for banned books in the New York Public Library. Finally, in 1996, her book was translated into English and published.

A capable painter in her own right, in 1927 Paris' Galerie au Sacre du Printemps held a sold-out exhibition of Kiki's paintings. Her drawings and paintings comprise portraits and dreamy landscapes composed in a light, slightly uneven expressionist style that is a reflection of her easy-going manner and boundless optimism.

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.

When she died, a large crowd of artists and fans attended her funeral. Foujita said that with Kiki, they buried forever the glorious days of Montparnasse.

Long after her death, Kiki remains the embodiment of the outspokenness, audacity, and creativity that marked this period of Montparnasse. A daylily is named in her honor —Kiki De Montparnasse

Books about Kiki


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