|Died||16 December 1956 66) (aged|
|Occupation||Artist and writer|
|Known for||Queen of Bohemia|
Nina Hamnett (14 February 1890 – 16 December 1956) was a Welsh artist and writer, and an expert on sailors' chanteys, who became known as the Queen of Bohemia.
Hamnett was born in Shirley House, Picton Road in the small coastal town of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales.Her father George Hamnett was an army officer, born in Chennai (formerly Madras), India. Her mother Mary was born in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Nina was sent to a private boarding school at Westgate-on-Sea before moving on aged 12, to the Royal School for Daughters of Officers of the Army in Bath, Somerset from 1902 to 1905. Her father was dishonourable discharged from the army and he took work as a taxi driver. Her education had to be funded by her aunts and by a loan against a future bequest. From 1906 to 1907 she studied at the Pelham Art School and then at the London School of Art until 1910. In 1914 she went to Montparnasse, Paris to study at Marie Vassilieff's Academy.
While studying in London she met and posed for Henri Gaudier-Brzeska who sculpted a series of nude bronzes. During this period she became friendly with Olivia Shakespear and Ezra Pound. She went on to have a love affair with Brzeska, and later with Modiglianiand Roger Fry.
On her first night in the Bohemian community she went to the café La Rotonde where the man at the next table introduced himself as "Modigliani, painter and Jew". In addition to making close friends with Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Serge Diaghilev, and Jean Cocteau, she stayed for a while at La Ruche, where many of the leading members of the avant-garde lived at the time. In Montparnasse in 1914 she also met her future husband, the Norwegian artist, Edgar de Bergen who later changed his name to Roald Kristian to sound less German. She would remain married for forty years but her relationship with her husband lasted only three years.In 1916 her husband was deported as an unregistered alien.
Her work was well regarded by Walter Sickert who endeavoured to advise of on her painting but she lacked his dedication and she revelled in not taking advice. Sickert used her as a model and also painted her with her husband in 1915-16 in The Little Tea Party: Nina Hamnett and Roald Kristian
Flamboyantly unconventional, and openly bisexual, Hamnett once danced nude on a Montparnasse café table just for the "hell of it". She drank heavily, was sexually promiscuous, and kept numerous lovers and close associations within the artistic community. Very quickly, she became a well-known bohemian personality throughout Paris and modeled for many artists. Her reputation soon reached back to London, where for a time, she went to work making or decorating fabrics, clothes, murals, furniture, and rugs at the Omega Workshops, which was directed by Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant.
Her artistic creations were widely exhibited during World War I, including at the Royal Academy in London as well as the Salon d'Automne in Paris. Back in England, she taught at the Westminster Technical Institute from 1917 to 1918.After Kristian left, she took up with another free spirit, composer E. J. Moeran.
From the mid-1920s until the end of World War II, the area known as Fitzrovia was London's main Bohemian artistic centre. The place took its name from the popular Fitzroy Tavern on the corner of Charlotte and Windmill Streets that formed the area's centre. Home of the café life in Fitzrovia, it was Hamnett's favourite hangout as well as that of her friend from her home town, Augustus John, and later another Welshman, the poet Dylan Thomas.
In 1932 Hamnett published Laughing Torso, a tale of her bohemian life, which became a bestseller in the UK and US. The notorious occultist Aleister Crowley unsuccessfully sued her and the publisher for libel over allegations of black magic made in her book.
Although she won the case, the situation profoundly affected her for the remainder of her life. Alcoholism would soon overtake her many talentsand the tragic "Queen of the Fitzroy" spent a good part of the last few decades of her life at the bar, (usually that of the Fitzroy Tavern), trading anecdotes for drinks.
Twenty-three years after her first book Laughing Torso was published, Hamnett, in poor health, released a follow up book aptly titled: Is She a Lady?
Hamnett died in 1956 from complications after falling out of her apartment window and being impaled on the fence forty feet below. The great debate has always been whether or not it was a suicide attempt or merely a drunken accident. Her last words were "Why don't they let me die?"
A biography, Nina Hamnett: Queen of Bohemia, by Denise Hooker was published in 1986. In 2011, Hamnett was the subject of a short film by writer/director Chris Ward 'What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor' starring Siobhan Fahey. In November 2019, the Fitzrovia Chapel will host an exhibition called Nina Hamnett - 'Everybody was Furious'.
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was an Italian Jewish painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces, necks, and figures that were not received well during his lifetime but later found acceptance. Modigliani spent his youth in Italy, where he studied the art of antiquity and the Renaissance. In 1906 he moved to Paris, where he came into contact with such artists as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși. By 1912 Modigliani was exhibiting highly stylized sculptures with Cubists of the Section d'Or group at the Salon d'Automne.
Montparnasse is an area of Paris, France, on the left bank of the river Seine, centered at the crossroads of the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the Rue de Rennes, between the Rue de Rennes and boulevard Raspail. Montparnasse has been part of Paris.
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita was a Japanese–French painter and printmaker born in Tokyo, Japan, who applied Japanese ink techniques to Western style paintings. He has been called "the most important Japanese artist working in the West during the 20th century". His Book of Cats, published in New York by Covici Friede, 1930, with 20 etched plate drawings by Foujita, is one of the top 500 rare books ever sold, and is ranked by rare book dealers as "the most popular and desirable book on cats ever published".
La Ruche was an artist's residence in the Montparnasse district of Paris. It now hosts around fifty artists and stages art exhibitions open to the public.
Mariya Ivanovna Vassiliéva, , better known as Marie Vassilieff, was a Russian Empire painter.
Fitzrovia is a district in central London, near London's West End, lying partly in the City of Westminster and partly in the London Borough of Camden ; north of Oxford Street and Soho between Bloomsbury and Marylebone. It is characterised by its mixed-use of residential, business, retail, education and healthcare, with no single activity dominating. The historically bohemian area was once home to such writers as Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Rimbaud.
Jeanne Hébuterne was a French artist best known as the frequent subject and common-law wife of the artist Amedeo Modigliani. She took her own life two days after Modigliani died, and is now buried beside him.
The Fitzroy Tavern is a public house situated at 16 Charlotte Street in the Fitzrovia district of central London, England, to which it gives its name.
Montparnasse 19 is a 1958 French-Italian drama film partially based on the last years of the life of Italian artist, Amedeo Modigliani, who worked and died in abject poverty in the Montparnasse area of Paris. Some of his most famous paintings done then were of his last two lovers, Beatrice Hastings and Jeanne Hébuterne.
Le Dôme Café or Café du Dôme is a restaurant in Montparnasse, Paris. From the beginning of the 1900s, it was renowned as an intellectual gathering place. It was widely known as "the Anglo-American café."
Beatrice Hastings was the pen name of Emily Alice Haigh an English writer, poet and literary critic. Much of her work was published in The New Age under a variety of pseudonyms, and she lived with the editor, A. R. Orage, for a time before the outbreak of the First World War. Bisexual, she was a friend and lover of Katherine Mansfield, whose work was first published in The New Age. Another of her lovers was Wyndham Lewis.
The Café de la Rotonde is a famous café in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris, France. In its official website, La Rotonde defines itself as a "brasserie" and a restaurant. Located on the Carrefour Vavin, at the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard Raspail, it was founded by Victor Libion in 1911. Along with Le Dome and La Coupole it was renowned as an intellectual gathering place for notable artists and writers during the interwar period.
Sophie Suzanne Brzeska or Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska was a Polish writer and artistic muse most noted for being the companion of the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.
Anna Hope Hudson, generally known as Nan Hudson, (1869–1957) was an American-born artist who lived and worked in France and England. She was the life partner of Ethel Sands.
Betty May was a British singer, dancer, and model, who worked primarily in London's West End. She was a member of the London Bohemian set of the inter-war years, claimed to have joined a criminal gang in Paris, was associated with occultist Aleister Crowley, and sat for Augustus John and Jacob Epstein. She became known as the "Tiger Woman". She adopted the name Betty May early in life, for reasons that are unclear.
The Wheatsheaf is a pub in Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, that was popular with London's bohemian set in the 1930s. Its customers included George Orwell, Dylan Thomas, Edwin Muir and Humphrey Jennings, who were known for a while as the Wheatsheaf writers Other habitués included the singer and dancer Betty May, and the writer and surrealist poet Philip O'Connor, Nina Hamnett, Julian Maclaren-Ross, Anthony Carson and Quentin Crisp.
The Crab Tree Club was a nightclub in Greek Street, Soho, London, that was established by the painter Augustus John in April 1914 with the financial support of Thomas Scott-Ellis. John wrote to his friend John Quinn, "We are starting a new club in town called the 'Crab-tree' for artists, poets and musicians... It ought to be amusing and useful at times". The club was a popular meeting place for London bohemians immediately before the First World War who would descend en-masse on the Crab Tree after the Café Royal closed for the night.
Lilian Shelley was a popular music hall entertainer and later artists' model in London in the early 1900s known as "The Bug" or "The Pocket Edition". She posed for Jacob Epstein and Augustus John. John's portrait of Shelley was described as one of the "star turns" in an exhibition Pictures of Women at the Wildenstein Galleries, London, in 1940. He called her "Bill".
Birgit Skiöld was a Swedish printmaker and modernist artist who ran the highly successful Print Workshop in the basement of 28 Charlotte Street, London from 1958 to the late 1970s. She was a noted member of the London art scene during the time and her life is commemorated in an eponymous award for innovating printmaking.
Fernande Barrey was a French artist model and painter.
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