“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, January 10, 1922, 28 Rue Boissy d’Anglas, Right Bank; and 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine, Left Bank, Paris

French writer and artist Jean Cocteau, 32, has planned this terrific grand opening for the cabaret he is fronting, Le Boeuf sur La Toit [The Ox on the Roof], on the Right Bank. He and his business partners took the name from a ballet Cocteau had written a few years ago, to a catchy tune by French composer Darius Milhaud, 29.

Le Boeuf sur le Toit

Cocteau’s own paintings are on the walls, along with others lent by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 40. However the centerpiece is the stunning work behind the bar, L’oeil Cacodylate, by French painter Francis Picabia, about to turn 43.

L’oeil Cacodylate by Francis Picabia

It’s almost midnight and the party is going strong. Picasso is here with his young Russian ballerina wife, Olga, 30. Welsh painter Nina Hamnett, 31, has arrived late.

Cocteau looks for his friend, French writer Raymond Radiguet, 19, and finds him at the bar chatting with Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, 45. The two men aren’t enjoying the party and, to Cocteau’s dismay, grab Nina and take off to find a bouillabaisse.

To Hamnett’s dismay, Radiguet and Brancusi abandon her at the Gare de Lyon to continue their search by hopping a train to Marseilles.

Le Boeuf sur La Toit publicity card


Over on the Left Bank, American ex-pats Ernest Hemingway, 22, and his wife of four months Hadley, 30, are settling in to their cramped, fourth-floor apartment above a bal musette, a bar with a dance floor presided over by the chain-smoking, accordion-playing owner.

The Hemingways arrived in Paris just a few weeks ago and have been staying at the nearby Hotel Jacob. An American friend found this apartment for them, with a mattress on the floor, no running water, and a toilet on each landing that they can smell when they climb the stairs.

The Hemingways are astounded by how cheap it is to live in Paris. In little neighborhood restaurants you can get dinner for two for 12 francs (about $1) and a bottle of wine for 60 centimes (50 cents). Hadley’s trust fund gives them $3,000 a year, and Ernest is working as the foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. They can afford to hire a maid to clean and cook them meals and can even afford to go on skiing vacations.

Today they are off to Chamby sur Montreux, Switzerland, for two weeks so Ernest can research a piece about the Swiss tourist trade for the Star.

74 rue de Cardinal Lemoine

If you now have Milhaud’s catchy tune going through your head, you can hear the whole piece here

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

On February 3, 2022, we will be celebrating the 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgher Gertrude Stein, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. You can register for this free event, or sign up to watch it via Zoom, here

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

At the end of February I am talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Review of Bohemian Lives: Three Extraordinary Women: Ida Nettleship, Sophie Brzeska, Fernande Olivier, by Amy Licence

Amy Licence, also the author of Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles, about the Bloomsbury group, has form for writing about late 19th and early 20th century European bohemians, my favourite topic. She has a real talent for telling stories about these three women whose lives overlapped, but never actually physically intersected.

By choosing the partners of three major artists of the time—Ida Nettleship’s husband, painter Augustus John; Sophie Brzeska’s partner, sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska; and Fernande Olivier’s lover, Picasso—Licence tells the story of the art and culture of the early 20th century through the lives of these women in unusual and unique relationships.

Ida Nettleship John

Ida Nettleship John (1877-1907)

I share her fascination with the possibility that the three women’s paths may have crossed in Paris:

Sophie, Ida and Fernande share so many friends and locations that it is tempting to speculate on their proximity; perhaps they followed a similar route through the Luxembourg Gardens or met mutual acquaintances in the same Montparnasse Café.

Gertrude Stein could have been strolling past them with her partner, Alice B. Toklas; Hadley and Ernest Hemingway could have been dining at the next table.

Sophie Brezska-Gaudier

Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska (1873-1925)

Licence bases her stories on solid research, and her descriptions of the buildings and neighbourhoods that these women inhabited come alive. She must have visited them personally to get the feel for the physical space surrounding her three heroines. Never underestimate the value of primary research.

Fernande Olivier

Fernande Olivier (1881-1966)

For me, it was a delight to see some of my writers—Stein, Roger Fry—appear, along with side characters I always wanted to know more about—artists Nina Hamnett and Gwen John, for example. And I felt the spirit of my John Quinn, Irish-American lawyer and collector of Augustus and Gwen John, as well as Gaudier-Brzeska, hovering in the background, supporting their work.

In a few spots, there is perhaps too much detail about the women’s extended families. Always interesting, but with so many fascinating characters, it’s hard to keep up.

Overall, a great read about three ‘extraordinary’ women in interesting circumstances. Who needs fiction?!

Bohemian Lives:  Three Extraordinary Women:  Ida Nettleship, Sophie Brzeska, Fernande Olivier, by Amy Licence (Amberley Publishing, 2017; £18.99)


Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap.