Thursday, 28 August 2014

Kiki de Montparnasse Review (Catel, Jose-Luis Bocquet)

Alice Prin was born in 1901 into poverty in rural France. Raised by a loving grandmother along with several other bastards, her mother was in Paris chasing artists and the high life while her biological father was nowhere to be found, and when Alice turned 12 she was sent to Paris. Her high energy and natural beauty became too much for her carefree mother and after being caught modelling nude for a local painter, Alice was turned away by her mother and forced to make a living on the streets. 

It’s from there that she learns about the bohemian lifestyle of Paris, post WW1, emerging into the party lifestyle of the 1920s. She meets artists, painters, photographers, writers, and becomes a notable figure herself, changing her name to Kiki, Queen of Montparnasse, the area of Paris she lived in most of her life. 

The book follows Kiki’s life from the glamour days of her twenties with her whirlwind romances, to her role as muse to numerous avant-garde artists of the time, in particular the love of her life, Man Ray. It also takes into account her later years when the drink and drugs took over her life and eventually killed her. 

For a figure who painted, sang, wrote a memoir, and acted in many films, Kiki was unknown to me until I read this so it’s strange that she didn’t create anything that’s lasted. Her legacy seems to be as an inspiration for other, greater artists to create their work on; artists like Foujita, Kisling, Calder, and of course Man Ray (who took the famous picture of Kiki the cover art is based upon). 

That said, she lived a life! She had many loves, she did many things, she saw a lot and did a lot, and eventually it was living the life she lived at 21 that killed her at 52. The book showcases a free woman in a world where women were anything but, and a woman who loved life to death. 

The drawing style is vibrant and captures emotion in the faces of the characters beautifully. It’s also an unmistakably French style of art – if you’ve read other French comic books like Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian’s “Monsieur Jean” books or David B’s work, you’ll see similarity in the method. Like those other artists, Catel and Jose Luis-Boucquet have created a wonderful book about a kind-hearted, warm soul. 

Alice Prin may not be the most famous person to write a book about but the book Catel and Jose Luis-Boucquet have written about her has done justice to her life and kept her memory glowing for a new generation to discover her. “Kiki de Montparnasse” is an excellent read and a great comic book that’ll keep you enthralled throughout.

Kiki de Montparnasse

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