Thursday, November 28, 2013

Paris was a Woman - Bohemian Women in Paris in the 1920s

The Left Bank of Paris is a notorious bohemian hot-spot where some of the world's greatest artists and intellectuals found a haven in which to freely express themselves. Though traditional chronicles have focused on the illustrious men who lived there, this British documentary from 1996 looks at some of the women who lived there including Gertrude Stein and her lover Alice B. Toklas,publishers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, painter Romaine Brooks, and Natalie Barney. Many of their stories are told with archival film clips coupled with modern interviews. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide From the late nineteenth century until World War II, Paris was a center of sexual freedom and same-sex sexual cultures. Lesbian American and European expatriates and France's own lesbian writers and artists created a Bohemian social, sexual, and creative milieu that makes this time and place unique in the history of lesbian culture. Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), an accomplished American photographer famous for her New York cityscapes, made memorable images of gay men and lesbians in Paris in the 1920s. Margaret Anderson (1886-1973) is best known as the editor of The Little Review in which she published some of the most important writers of the early twentieth century. Following a conviction for obscenity in the United States, Anderson spent much of the 1920s in Paris. Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) was a writer who sought new forms of lesbian self-representation in her novels. Her Ladies Almanack (1928) playfully satirizes the lesbian culture she experienced while living in Paris during the 1920s. Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972), an American-born poet, memoirist, and epigrammatist, moved to Paris permanently in 1920. She established an influential literary salon that lasted more than fifty years, and documented her encounters with gay and lesbian writers she met there in two well-regarded memoirs. Sylvia Beach (1887-1962) was an American-born editor who founded Shakespeare and Company, a Parisian bookshop that had a significant impact on modern literature. Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) may have been the greatest teacher of musical composition in the twentieth century. Leonard Bernstein, Ned Rorem, and Aaron Copland were among the hundreds of students who came to her tiny Paris studio. Romaine Brooks (1874-1970) was an American expatriate artist whose life-sized female nudes and portraits of cross-dressed women made her lesbian identity and desire visible to the world. Claude Cahun (1894-1954), a French photographer, photo collagist, writer, and translator, photographed several noted lesbian expatriates in Paris. Colette (1873-1954) is one of France's most beloved writers. Her work includes a frank study of sexuality entitled The Pure and the Impure (1932), which addresses a broad range of sexual inclinations. Janet Flanner (1892-1978) was an American-born novelist, translator, and journalist best known for her fortnightly "Letter from Paris," which she wrote for the New Yorker from 1925 to 1975. Gisèle Freund (1908?-2000), an accomplished photojournalist, is best remembered as a chronicler of the vibrant Bohemian community of writers and artists in Paris during the 1930s. Agnes Noyes Goodsir (1864-1939) was an Australian painter who became part of the legendary lesbian scene in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s; her portraits of women have an erotic and radical edge.

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