When the rebellious spirit of women in the roaring twenties worked for their emancipation

When the rebellious spirit of women in the roaring twenties worked for their emancipation

Mistinguett, Suzy Solidor and Madeleine Perrier… Album Women of the Roaring Twenties pays homage to the strong female figures that emerged in the 1920s.

Effervescent, daring, exciting, free… Euphoric adjectives describe the Roaring Twenties. A festive decade in which creativity and freedom were celebrated in the smoky taverns of Montparnasse. An enchanted bracket, after the war, whose charm still works after more than a century. A happy and prosperous time for the emancipation of women.

IN Women of the roaring twenties, a richly illustrated work, Norman Barreau-Gély, a passionate lover of music hall history and curator of the R-26 Club archives, offers a fascinating dive into this blessed era for those who knew how to assert themselves and release their rebellious spirit. Painters, dancers, singers, athletes and scientists knew how to amazingly capture the extravagant modernity offered by the Roaring Twenties.

«The women’s struggle began in this air bubble of the 1920s, the author points out. Although everything was far from perfect, especially on the right to vote, they reveal great female figures full of freedom and courage. They cut their hair, get rid of restrictive outfits, drive cars, work, sway their hips to the new rhythms coming from the United States. In order to pay tribute to this exceptional decade, it seemed obvious to me to go through the prism of these passionate personalities. While today the female point of view is in the first place and requested, this approach allowed me to bring a contemporary prism as well.»

Great friendships, art fairs, parties, scandals, intoxication of the senses… Avoiding a series of portraits, Norman Barreau-Gély beautifully recounts the fascinating era through which the female gaze passes. For a stunning work from the first to the last page and whose author gives us a taste, through three exceptional portraits.

Mistinguett, Queen of the Music Hall

Mistinguett, here rehearsing at the Moulin-Rouge with Earl Leslie, with her openness and her charisma, will play the lead singer of the Roaring Twenties. Collection David Sylvestre DR / Editions E/P/A

«Mistinguettwas the queen of the music hall of those years, an absolutely essential personality. She represented Paris in the eyes of the whole world and every French woman in the eyes of Paris. She embodied the insolence of the workers and the elegance of the bourgeois. Neither an exceptional singer nor dancer, she had a charisma that defies any analysis. With her entrepreneurial spirit, she took over the artistic direction of the Moulin Rouge Music Hall in 1926. Her performances were absolutely gorgeous. It became a small business unto itself. Everything was built only on his name. She was able to take advantage of the technological advances of the time, recording discs distributed throughout France. He appears in the cinema, poses for photographers, gets on the front pages of newspapers. All his movements are publicized. Mistinguett was the first French star to take advantage of all the different media that could make her a star.»

Suzy Solidor, the most represented in the world

Promotional photo of Suzy Solidor, then known as the “Cabaret Star”, 1934. Promotional photo

«Suzy Solidor symbolizes the icon of the Roaring Twenties. She arrived in Paris in the early 1920s surrounded by the secret that she was an illegitimate descendant of the famous corsair from Saint-Malo Surcouf. She herself hails from Saint-Malo, borrowing her stage name from her famous tower, Solidor. She is a very beautiful woman with a sculpted body and silky hair in a golden helmet. He wants to be a model and hopes to meet Jeanne Lanvin. But on her way she will meet socialite Yvonne de Brémont d’Ars, an antiques dealer who becomes her lover and Pygmalion. The latter will expose it to the eyes of photographers and painters, shape it so that everyone wants it. More than 220 painters painted his portrait, from Jean-Gabriel Domergue in 1923 to Francis Bacon in the early sixties, passing Marie Laurencinor Francis Picabia. She is the most photographed woman in the world. In the 1930s, she broke off her relationship with her mentor and opened her own cabaret. His repertoire includes sea shanties, an evocation of his native Brittany, usually sung by men. She sings openly lesbian songs, or very modern female poets for that time, like Jean Cocteau. With her freedom, her audacity, her clothes, her sulphurous attitude with the smell of scandal, she embodies the symbol of the roaring twenties.»

Madeleine Perrier, for the love of art

Madeleine Perrier, dressed by Balenciaga, was photographed at 26, rue Norvins in Montmartre in the apartment where the R-26 club is headquartered. Perrier DR Family Archives / Editions E/P/A

«Madeleine Perrier belongs to those characters that history has neglected. With her husband, she headed the R-26 club, an art salon in Montmartre, which especially allowed women to come into contact with personalities essential for their emancipation. The couple was involved in fashion, an activity that was conducive to the development of a network of influence. Each social salon at that time had its own specificity. And in Montmartre, R-26 was conceived as a meeting place for friends, including Suzy Solidor, Sonie Delaunay, the architect Le Corbusier or a guitarist Django Reinhardt. Madeleine Perrier has made it a point of honor to open her lair to the unknown, to the whims of surprising encounters that bring together personalities from all the arts. A haven for creativity, the couple organized many cultural events there. But above all, in order to be a citizen of the Perriers, one had to adopt a rigorous charter: love the mound, sauerkraut, marc de Bourgogne, music, poetry, simplicity, love, good wine and beauty, friendship.»

» Women of the roaring twenties, Norman Barreau-Gély, EPA, 256 pp., €39.95.

Women of the Roaring Twenties narrates the turmoil of the 1920s through the prism of great female figures. EPA
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