Nancy Cunard

One of the most fascinating muses of the 20th century, English socialite Nancy Cunard grew up in a world of luxury thanks to her family's shipping fortune. But as soon as she was old enough to recognize the world's injustices, she rebelled against polite society and took up a life of political activism and artistic pursuits. She moved to Paris in the 1920s and rubbed elbows with the writers and artists who would define the decade. Her lovers included T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Aldous Huxley. Man Ray captured her unique glamour - which included dozens of African bracelets lining both arms, and she was close friends with Hemingway. She identified as an anarchist and led a tireless fight against fascism, especially during the Spanish Civil War. When she fell in love with a black jazz musician (a romance which her mother practically disinherited for), she became involved in racial politics and civil rights activism. Like many impassioned geniuses, however, she suffered from self-destructive tendencies including alcoholism, and died at 69 after being found, impoverished, in a Paris street.

[Photo by Man Ray/Metropolitan Museum of Art]

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