December 16, 2007

December 16 | Nina Hamnett

February 14, 1890 - December 16, 1956: Age 66

Nina Hamnett was a Welsh artist who lived a flamboyant, Bohemian lifestyle that included bisexuality, promiscuity, a bestselling autobiography, libel suits, and lots of alcohol. She once danced naked on the table of a café in Paris, a feat I personally find admirable. She hung out with the greatest and most avant-garde artists of the age, including Modigliani, Picasso, Diaghilev, and Cocteau.

Her bestselling autobiography, Laughing Torso, irritated Aleister Crowley so much that he sued her for libel over her allegation that he was a black magician. He lost the suit; the judge didn't believe that the allegation wasn't true. However it was a lose-lose situation for Hamnett: if he were not a black magician, she might lose the suit; if he were, as the judge seems to have believed, wouldn't he make a very unfortunate enemy? She did, however, outlive him (he died in 1947).

As it happens, her life went into decline after the lawsuit. She was a heavy drinker and spent a lot of the latter half of her life in bars, reminiscing about the good days. In 1956 she fell from her apartment window and was impaled on the fence 40 feet below. It is not certain whether it was a drunken accident or an attempt at suicide; if it were the latter, it was successful, as she died. Her last words were, "Why don't they let me die?"

At right: One of her works, Der Sturm, c. 1913.

Source: Wikipedia, Art and Illusion

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