This is a serious biography in images, but it was also fun to read. I don’t normally read that many graphic novels, but it seemed quite fitting for an artist. I had heard of Kiki’s name when studying 1920s French history, but didn’t know any details of her life. She was a famous model and artist, and a truly liberated woman. She posed for and made friends with all the artists who lived in Montparnasse after WWI: painters Modigliani, Kisling, Fujita, Soutine, writer Henri-Pierre Roche (the one who wrote Jules & Jim), Surrealist artists Man Ray, Desnos, Tzara, Breton, Duchamp, Cocteau etc.. She lived with photographer Man Ray for most of the 1920s-1930s and is featured in many of his photographs.
The sometimes naïve, black-and-white drawings made her seem all the more carefree and probably downplayed the tragic aspects of her life. She was born out of wedlock in 1901 and brought up in dire poverty by a loving grandmother, but then at 12 was sent to her mother in Paris who never cared for her. After trying many odd jobs, she turned to modeling, singing in cabarets (and sometimes downright prostitution) and soon became the muse of all avant-garde artists in bohemian-style Paris. She was very famous until WWII then died in the 1950s, completely alone and forgotten. This period always was presented to me in a male point of view, it was nice to see a female perspective, for a change. She didn’t create any of the modernist breakthroughs of that period, but somehow she embodied them with her freedom and defiance.