The Aug. 22, 1949 issue of LIFE contained one of its more iconic stories, on the vanishing American cowboy. Among the captivated readers of that story was an ad executive who would use it as inspiration for the Marlboro man.

Readers who continued turning the pages of that issue also found LIFE exploring a different kind of archetype: the American expatriate in Paris. That archetype gained currency in the 1920s, and was immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in his memoir A Moveable Feast. But following World War II, the Americans flocking to Paris were of a different breed. Many of “The New Expatriates,” as LIFE called them, were veterans of World War II who were studying abroad under the GI Bill.

LIFE wrote:

The dream remains on the Left Bank of the Seine, where today several thousand Americans, including several hundred students taking advantage of the educational grants provided by the GI Bill of Rights, walk the old streets. The ex-GIs, living on government checks, are a far cry from the expatriate generation of the ’20s, which supported itself chiefly by taking advantage of the favorable exchange between dollars and francs.

According to the LIFE story, which was written by Paris bureau chief John Stanton, many of this new wave of Americans had come there to learn the trades that were the specialty of the French. He described “10 former hulking combat infantry” who were students at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Another 60 students were learning clothing design—”and some are even getting jobs at top houses here.” Many others, rather than learning a specific trade, were taking traditional academic courses at the Sorbonne.

And their life in Paris, while romantic and soulful in appearance, also had a hardscrabble element. The GI Bill afforded veterans $75 a month (about $920 in 2023 dollars). So the students lived in walk-up apartments or other modest accommodations and frequented only the most inexpensive cafes and clubs.

But whatever budget these expatriates were living on, they had each other. It is the companionship that shines through in the photos of Dmitri Kessel. These soldiers were recapturing the camaraderie of military life, now finding it in classrooms and cafes. And that is what gives these images of postwar Paris their depth of feeling. It’s not just where these veterans are, but the understanding of where they had been.

Former newspaper cartoonist Robert Bizinsky, who during World War II served in Northern Africa, in 1949 had been living in Paris for two years and working on his painting.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Young Americans having a drink on terrace of Cafe de Flore on the Left Bank in Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

In his Paris garret, Howard Simpson (left) painted while Hill Hazelip watched, 1949; the room was a sixth-floor walkup that rented for $10 a month.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Young Americans at a Parisian nightclub, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Former GIs Danford Goldman (left) and Don Bartley studied at the Guerre-Lavigne fashion school in Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Students William Pilson and Lewis Friedman, with others, draping material and sewing at the Guerre Lavigne’s school of fashion, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Artist Joseph Eula from New York sketched on a rented houseboat moored in the Seine, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Jane Lewis, Ethel Staff and Elly McAndrews came from New York to work as models in Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A cooking school, Paris, 1949, photographed for a LIFE story on American veterans living abroad after World War II.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

American student Hill Hazelip and others listened to jazz at an inexpensive Paris club, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Young American models sipped drinks at sidewalk cafe, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

American Elly McAndrews, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Hill Hazelip, 21, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Model Jane Lewis, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Composer William Gilligan playing piano, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Composer William Finnigan and his wife and dog, visiting with a guest at their home, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

American working models taking a stroll in Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

American sculptors George Spanenta and Sydney Geist in Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Franc De George singing for the crowd in a Paris bar, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

American students drinking, talking, and listening to music, Paris, 1949.

Dmitri Kessel/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

More Like This

history

Joseph Pilates: When the Fitness Guru Trained an Opera Legend

history

For Some, Dry January Was Never Enough

history

Primary Focus: Eisenstaedt’s Images of New Hampshire

history

Bob Marley: A Legendary Life

history

The Coldest Front: LIFE’s Coverage of the Winter War

history

An Instagram Moment, Pre-Instagram: The Tri-Delt Pansy Breakfast