Exhibitions: HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture

Berenice Abbott: Janet Flanner

In 1922, Janet Flanner settled in Paris with her lover, Solita Solano. She would spend the next fifty years writing her “Letter from Paris,” a column that appeared regularly in the New Yorker. Flanner and Solano became fixtures in the salon life of the city, their homosexuality providing a crucial entrée into the most fashionable literary groups, which were then dominated by wealthy expatriate lesbians. Flanner signed her column with the decorously French and sexually ambiguous pseudonym “Genêt.” She used “Genêt” to hide her identity, but like most masks, the name revealed as much as it hid. With her campy prose and focus on known gay and lesbian personalities, Flanner provided a knowing glimpse of the Paris “in” crowd. In this portrait by Berenice Abbott, Flanner wears two masks, which—like her pseudonym—suggest her multiple layers.