Queer Expats Of Paris

 

Bella Darvi

(1928 - 1971)

Cimetière parisien de Bagneux - Paris

Escaping from the panic of Poland you headed to Paris, but the threat was always close. Later, Mr. and Mrs. Zanuck fell for your new French ways.  They gave you a career, you gave them your name. But being an ‘Egyptian’ in Hollywood didn’t last long. Hitting the tables hard in Monaco helped numb the failure but brought a bigger debt than expected. 

 

Susan Sontag

(1933 - 2004)

Montparnasse Cemetery - Paris

Escaping absent parents you took refuge in books. After ten days at university you were married and David was on the way. America couldn’t contain your lust for life so your radical will led you to an interpretation of Paris. Your sexual awakening started with ‘H’ and ended with Leibovitz with a lot of beauty in between. “She doesn’t even listen to rock”.

 

Gisèle Freund

(1908 - 2000)

Montparnasse Cemetery - Paris

Escaping the pressure of both being Jewish and a socialist you headed for Paris on advice from Walter Benjamin, arriving with your negatives strapped to your body. Your attraction for the Left Bank led you into the fold of Paris’ feminist lesbian scene where Adrianna opened her door. Wolf, Satre, Mitterrand and Joyce were just a few of the intelligentsia that you captured. Despite the ordeals of your younger days you kept shooting.

 

Chantal Akerman

(1950 - 2015)

Père Lachaise Cemetery - Paris

Escaping your parent’s past you embraced the celluloid reality of motherly enmeshment. You documented the stifling conditions of daily domestic life of the female existence. Rejecting both critics and societies assumed agenda you created your own slow lens. A year after your mother passed there were no more home movies to be made.

 

Isadora Duncan

(1877 - 1927)

Père Lachaise Cemetery - Paris

Escaping extreme poverty into the world of freeing movement started your life on the stage. You flouted traditional morality with your red spirit and passion for playing for both teams. You were the ‘mother of dance’ but also the mother of tragedy. Despite drowning in sorrow you still stitched together a global legacy. Ultimately your flowing couture both defined and defeated you.

 

Gertrude Stein

(1874 - 1946)

Père Lachaise Cemetery - Paris

Escaping the rigid ways of the medical patriarchy you penetrated the Paris art scene. You used your inheritance to support the fledgling careers of the future elite. Your’s and Alice’s salon became the centre for an emerging gay identity. Despite your queerness and Jewishness you collaborated with Vichy France, confusing everyone.

 

Vaslav Nijinsky

(1889 - 1950)

Montmartre Cemetery - Paris

Escaping your mind into your vocation got you out of Russia. You gave Sergei your body and he made you a star. Your sexual gestures in Spring caused riots in Paris. While trapped on a boat you married your stalker, despite not sharing a language. Retiring before 30, schizophrenia and heterosexuality stole your last years.

 

Toyen

(1902 - 1980)

Batignolles Cemetery - Paris

Escaping the limitations of Czechoslovakia because of your love of anarchy you found a new persona in the Paris Surrealist art scene. Being a citizen was more important than conforming to societies expectations on your sex. Ambiguous about gender but blatant about eroticism you made your own way among the surrealist patriarchy.

 

Natalie Clifford Barney

(1876 - 1972)

Passy Cemetery - Paris

Escaping the boredom of American high society for the literary world of Paris started your life as ‘l’Amazone’. Your salon was frequented for sixty years by queer voices such as Barnes, Stein, Capote and Vidal who enjoyed your pacifist patronage. Loving Renee Vivien ended in tragedy but your relationship with Romaine lasted half a century.

 

Renée Vivien

(1877 - 1909)

Passy Cemetery - Paris

Escaping the pressures of a fast fortune into the queer bohemia of Paris, you fell for Natalie and the hedonistic lifestyle. After Clifford Barney broke your heart the poetic sadomasochistic fantasies of your pen turned into reality. Drinking laudanum covered in flowers didn’t solve your problems but refusing to eat put an end to it all.