Blog post

Suzy Solidor & La Vie Parisienne

Lesbian entrepreneur, actress, singer and 'the most painted woman in the world'

black and white photograph of Suzy Solidor who sits in a car with a large dog sitting next to her
by
Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

Suzy Solidor was an icon of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, a lesbian who owned her own nightclub and became 'the most painted woman in the world'. More than 200 artists painted Suzy, including Tamara de Lempicka, Francis Bacon, Man Ray and more.

Suzy Solidor was born in Brittany in 1900 as Suzanne Marion, the daughter of a single mother. Her name changed to Suzanne Rocher when her mother married in 1907. The family settled in the Solidor district of Saint-Servan, giving Suzy her later stage name.

black and white photograph of Suzy Solidor in a park who wears a long dress, gloves and hat

She learned to drive in 1916, most likely making her the first woman in Brittany to have a driving licence. During World War I, she worked as a mechanic and driver in the ambulance corps.

After the war, she moved to Paris where she became involved with Yvonne de Bremond d'Ars, a wealthy antiques dealer. Yvonne owned a home in the seaside resort Deauville, where these photographs were taken.

black and white photograph of Suzy Solidor posing by lying on the sea shore, she wears a bathing suit
black and white photograph of Suzy Solidor who walks along sea shore wearing a bathing suit

In 1932, Suzy Solidor opened her first nightclub 'La Vie Parisienne'.

Here, luminaries from arts, aristocracy, entertainment, politics and finance mixed. The club was well-known for its liberal atmosphere, and was popular with queer and heterosexual communities. Solidor was famous as an entertainer and host. She liked to sing saucy sea shanties, and was often depicted in a nautical setting.

black and white photograph, Suzy Solidor on a beach wearing a swimming costume and holding a large inflatable ball

While Solidor had male lovers, she was open about her preference for women - she recorded a whole album called Paris-Lesbien.

black and white photograph of Suzy Solidor posing against a black and white background, she wears a robe with feathers

Solidor was famous for publicity stunts to promote herself and her nightclub. One of these was to become 'the most painted woman in the world'. She posed for artworks by some of the most famous artists of the time - Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Kees van Dongen and many more.

black and white photograph, portrait of Suzy Solidor who is seated and wears a formal jacket

These paintings lined the walls of La Vie Parisienne. It was said that she kept the most flattering and her most liked paintings near her on the wall, while those she liked least were found near the toilets.

Solidor's most famous portrait was painted by Tamara de Lempicka, whom she had a relationship with. When Solidor asked de Lempicka to paint her, she agreed - but only if it would be a nude portrait. The painting was finished in 1933.

black and white photograph of Suzy Solidor and Jean Cocteau standing by a piano

During World War II, La Vie Parisienne was very popular with occupying Nazi German soldiers. Solidor accommodated them, even changing songs to please this audience. After the war, Solidor was tried and convicted as a Nazi collaborator.

She left for the United States for a short time, returning to Paris where she opened Chez Suzy Solidor in 1954. In 1960, she retired to the south of France, opening Chez Suzy another cabaret decorated with her many portraits.

In 1973, she gave part of her portrait collection to the city of Cagnes-sur-Mer - a selection of around 40 works can still be seen in the Grimaldi Castle Museum. Suzy Solidor died in March 1983.

LGBTQ+ history France 1930s