[Photoset - Top: Natalie Clifford Barney in 1896, painted by her mother Alice Pike Barney. Middle: Barney at age 13, also painted by her mother. Bottom left: A photo of Eva Palmer-Sikelianos, Barney’s first intimate partner. Bottom right: A postcard of Liane du Pougy, a famous courtesan that Barney seduced.]
"My queerness is not a vice, is not deliberate, and harms no one."
Natalie Clifford Barney was born on October 31st, 1876 in Dayton, Ohio. As a novelist, playwright, and poet, she held a writer’s salon for over sixty years in Paris, drawing in such famous names as Mata Hari, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Radclyffe Hall, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Renee Vivien, and T.S Eliot, although the organization was originally founded as a counterpoint to the all-male French Academy.
When Barney was five years old her family spent the summer at New York’s Long Beach Hotel where Oscar Wilde happened to be speaking on his American lecture tour. Wilde scooped her up as she ran past him fleeing a group of small boys, held her out of their reach then sat her down on his knee and told her a story.
The day after, he joined Barney and her mother Alice Pike Barney on the beach, where their conversation changed the course of Alice’s life, inspiring her to pursue art seriously, despite, years later, her husband’s disapproval. Alice painted many pictures of her daughter and now many of her works are on display in the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington, D.C.