Much like the painters and sculptors before them, photographers sought out models and muses for their work. Some of these became world famous, sometimes becoming more famous then those that showed them to the world. To name a few; Kiki de Montparnasse in France, Pamela Green in England, Swedish born Lisa Fonssagrives in France and the US, Charis Wilson who posed for so many of Edward Weston's photographs. Then there was Assia Granatouroff.
(excerpt from jeudepaume.org below)
In the headily optimistic interwar years, Paris was a city of modernity that drew avant-garde artists such as Jacques-André Boiffard, Laure Albin Guillot, Maurice Tabard, and Emmanuel Sougez from all over France and even further afield—Marianne Breslauer, Annelise Kretschmer, Germaine Krull, Erwin Blumenfeld, Gisèle Freund, and Wols from Germany, Brassaï, André Kertész, François Kollar, Ergy Landau, and André Steiner from Hungary, George Hoyningen-Huene and Albert Rudomine from Russia, Raoul Ubac from Belgium, and Man Ray and Berenice Abbott from the United States.
This extraordinary cultural melting-pot made Paris the undisputed capital of photography from the 1920s to the 1940s, as avant-garde artists exchanged ideas and experiments to create a ‘new vision’ of photography.
‘The New Vision was a positivist movement that put its faith in mankind, claimed to produce ‘real images’, and took pains to produce an exact, almost sculptural rendering of the face. The frame became a vital component of the showcasing and originality of the portrait. The most striking feature remained the fetishization of stark sharpness, with no detail allowed to escape the eye of the lens.’
Assia, a young model discovered by Roger Schall, became the muse of many New Vision photographers in the 1930s. Assia Granatouroff, born in the Ukraine in 1911, became a professional photographer’s model. She embodied the spirit of nude photography of the day. Thanks to her, photographers were able to fully express their unique vision and their modernity. (end of excerpt)
In this context, Assia is an idéal model: She radiates a beauty and a perfectly natural charm, a little boyish , with golden hair, curly, square shoulders, full bust, strong legs and torso which shows without affectation "a powerful body"
She quickly became one of the most popular and most expensive models in Paris. She worked regularly with many of the (now famous) photographers, only allowing each one or 2 sessions per week.
The sculptor Charles Despiau hired the Ukrainian for several representations: "The shoulders are Egyptian . The body is Greek." Assia posed for him once or twice a week from 1934 to 1938.
Biography (from french wikipedia badly translated)
Assia was of Russian Jewish heritage, Her family fled Russia to France when she was 11
She was sixteen when she left home . She stayed in rue de Rennes, near Montparnasse, which was then the center of the artistic life of Paris . She practiced design. She created floral designs, which she sold to the textile mills of the North. In 1930, she became a model for photographers like Roger Schall , who discovered her. Others like Dora Maar, Germaine Krull, Ergy Landau, Emmanuel Sougez. She also posed for many sculptors ( Despiau, Aristide Maillol, Paul Belmondo, Chana Orloff ) and painters ( André Derain, Moïse Kisling, Kees van Dongen, Marcel Gromaire, Suzanne Valadon, Henry Waroquier, Edmond Ceria ).
Her modeling money was earned so she could finance (at the Vieux-Colombier) a theatrical career that continued under the direction of Charles Dullin. In 1935 , she played several roles in films and participated in the movie "Black Eyes" - Victor Tourjansky.
In 1940, Assia Granatouroff took refuge in the free zone. Later arrested by the Gestapo because she was Jewish, she managed to get free and join the ranks of the Resistance. She Frenchified her name and was now called Granatour. Her husband was also arrested around 1941, and returned from captivity in 1944. The couple divorced in 1949.
From 1950, she exhibited works of spiritual esoterica, and her artistic production was moving towards a clean symbolism. Going back to her roots she created compositions of flowers, and tapestries inspired by tarot cards from 1972-78.
She died of Bone cancer on May 17, 1982.