1920s Paris: Movers & Shakers

Posted on: April 8, 2013 in: Poulenc

Francis Poulenc was an established regular at the Parisian Cafés of 1920s Paris, but his was not the only notable face to be found on the scene. Among the movers and shakers of the 20s, were many other celebrated artists, writers and visionaries that also emerged as household names out of this dynamic cultural hub.

To name a few…

Coco Chanel

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Founder of the iconic Chanel brand, Coco Chanel was the most famous and influential fashion designer of the 20th century, credited with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularising the acceptance of a sportive, casual chic as the feminine standard in the post-First World War era. Her popularity thrived in the 1920s, because of her innovative designs and her own ‘boyish’ image, instead of the usual full-bodied women preferred at the time. Her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, has become an iconic product.

Ernest Hemingway


Hemingway was an American author and journalist. He produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s and famously won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He moved to Paris in 1921 with his first of four wives, where he fell under the influence of the modernist writers and artists of the 1920s “Lost Generation” expatriate community. Among his most celebrated works were: A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea, all of which are considered classics of American Literature.

jean Cocteau_1923

Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. Best known for his novel Les Enfants terribles (1929), and films; Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Orpheus (1949). In 1917, he wrote a scenario for the ballet-turned-opera, Parade, which included sets by Picasso, a libretto by Apollinaire and music by Satie, Poulenc and Ravel. Cocteau himself wrote the libretto for Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex. In the early 20s he, and the members of Les Six, frequented a wildly popular bar named, Le Boeuf sur le Toit, a name that Cocteau himself had a hand in picking.

James Joyce


James Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde era of the early 20th century. At an invitation from Ezra Pound, Joyce headed to Paris in 1920 for a week’s break, but ended up living there for the next twenty years. It was here that Joyce began to gain fame as an avant-garde writer and where he completed his masterpiece, Ulysses.


Paul Valéry

Paul Valéry was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher. In addition to his poetry and fiction (drama and dialogues), his interests included aphorisms on art, history, letters, music and current events. He was raised in Montpellier, but resided in Paris for most of his adult life, where he was, for a while, part of the circle of fellow French poet, Stéphane Mallarmé.

Pablo Picasso


Picasso, though a Spanish artist, spent most of his life in France. As one of the greatest and most influential painters of the 20th century, he is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture and the co-invention of collage. Along with Hemingway, he was a regular at writer, Gertrude Stein’s, Salon and was a major artistic influence on contemporary composers and writers, his work often displayed in their studios and or sets.




Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic of the early modernist movement. He settled in Paris in 1921 with his wife and became friendly with Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Fernand Léger and others of the Surrealist movements. He also mentored a young Ernest Hemingway, whom he often took on ‘alcoholic sprees’, and was frequently visited by T.S. Eliot when he holidayed in Paris. Pound became increasingly disgruntled with life in Paris and left after a man attempted to stab him in a restaurant.