A Montmartre promenade


As much of a tourist trap as it may be, Montmartre still has its hidden charms. My little sister used to live there, so for us it is always a pilgrimage of sorts. Walking up the back streets. Avenue Junot, Rue des Saules, are good options. Follow me on the streets of Martha’s Hill (and vineyard). Mont Marthe was the original name.


Keep yours eyes open. Let us go to the Lapin agile. The “Agile bunny”, a century-old cabaret.


Le Lapin Agile, rue des Saules, 1904. To the left in his customary black cape, is Aristide Bruant, a renowned “chansonnier” of the time. Translation? Er… Singer-author-composer? Many will recognize his silhouette in portraits of artists of that era:


Bruant by Toulouse-Lautrec.


Back to the Lapin Agile, early 1900’s. Nothing fancy about Montmartre then. it was a working-class neighbourhood. Cheap rents. Good for penniless artists. The cabaret was then called “A ma campagne”, To my country-side.


Le Lapin Agile today. I learned something new about the name, this summer, at the Musée de Montmartre (turn left on Rue Corot):


“Le Lapin à Gill”. Musée Montmartre. In 1875, the Cabaret of the assassins (quite a name!) wanted a new sign or “logo”. André Gill (1840-1885) painted this rabbit with a bottle of wine (perfect for rabbit stew) jumping out of a pan (better safe than sorry). The Cabaret of the assassins soon became known as “Le lapin à Gill”, e.g The rabbit by Gill, and gradually turned into Le Lapin Agile. Voilà. Suzanne Valadon, Picasso and others hung out at the Lapin agile.


Skip la Place du Tertre. Art is still very much alive in Montmartre, but on the streets. Art by Ardif. Let’s go up the Rue des Saules.

IMG_4055The vineyard at Montmartre on Rue des saules. If I recall, about a thousand bottles are “corked” every year. Quite a confidential number. I’ve never seen a place where you could actually buy the stuff. Hmmm. This calls for further research.


“The vineyard” by Roger Bertin (1905-2003) at the Musée Montmartre. Not dated, but I would suspect early 50’s by the style. The house on the upper right corner is the Musée Montmartre. Let’s go up Rue des Saules, and turn left on Rue Corot. (Corot is another painter, 19th century. Romantic).


This is the Musée Montmartre. Built around the 17th century. It came as a shock to me. A certain ressemblance to the house we had in Normandy.

td10 copia

Fifty kilometers away from Paris, this is the house where we spent our childhood summers, when on “furlough” from Africa or Asia. We’d been told the house was two centuries old. It checks. 17th century, and a very similar style to the Musée Montmartre on Rue Corot. My brother drove by a few years ago. The house has not changed a bit.


In the vast garden of the Musée Montmartre stands a small house: Suzanne Valadon’s workshop. Valadon (1865-1938) was one of the very few female painters of that time. There she is on the left, around 1920, with her husband, André Utterer and her son, Maurice Utrillo, another renowned painter. Pay close attention to the coal stove in the centre.


The workshop today. Looks familiar?


Valadon’s workshop, with a view on the Musée Montmartre. Strangely enough, the window is oriented North, when I would expect most artists would look for a South exposure with light all day.


Detail of the above. I always wonder whether this is original art. I know the paintings at Monet’s Giverny studio are copies. Regardless, it does give a taste, a feeling of the artist’s way of life.


Original, at the Musée Montmartre. Note the very precise pencil sketching under the paint. Not unlike the latter “ligne claire” of Franco-Belgian comics in the second half of the 20th century.


Valadon again. The dancer. A very different style. With possible influence by Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas. I’ve mentioned it before, artists then – and now – were constantly on the look-out for other visions. One might say Picasso would not be Picassso without Braque.


Well, walk’s over. Thanks for strolling along. Allow me to invite you to a glass of wine at the Musée, served by this “Pretty barmaid” (La belle cabaretière, 1924, by Marcel-François Leprin). Santé!


Do have a glass of wine this week-end. Red, preferably.




55 thoughts on “A Montmartre promenade

  1. Loved this tour and especially the historical photos you’ve chosen.

    Only visiting Montmartre once in my life, back in 1985, I felt right at home and didn’t want to leave. Loved the raw art scene and wonder if it’s become yuppy these days?

    • Montmartre like many places anywhere now, is “invaded” by hordes. 🙂 But if you move away 2 or 3 streets, you’re fine. We found the same in Florence recently. Or in Venezia years ago. And I’m sure it still works.
      Now Montmartre is “gentrifying” as well. Probably a lot of Airbnb’s too. 🙂
      Still worth the walk up. 🙂

      • That sounds like a very nice Christmas programme. (Don’t know Pisa yet. Darn. So many places to see, so little time!)
        I only know about the Jewish quarter because of Hugo Pratt, the Italian artist and graphic novelist. I am curious to see it too…
        I sometimes think I’d like to throw everything out the window, and live in Italy for six months. For a start. 🙂

      • It’s where we usually stay when visiting Venice. Although last year we stayed in a pretty flash airbnb on the Grand Canal – first time for everything. 😉

        Italy has so much going for it, but then the bureaucracy is oppressive – cue back of hand on forehead, sigh!

      • First times are good. 🙂
        Ha! I hadn’t seen that gesture in a long while. 🙂
        Though I can relate very well. (Bureaucracy here is… otherworldly) (Though the French are getting worse…)
        Ciao, ciao

  2. Ahh, what a lovely throwback to 1991 when I stumbled into Paris, for the first time, with two friends after hopping around Cote d’Azure and several Loire castles where, with no knowledge of French between us, we booked a hostel saying we were tres garcons. Once in Paris, we checked into a Pigalle hotel and started walking and found ourselves in front of Lapin Agile, remembered it and returned in the evening for the night of singing and accordion playing. I was 21, Slovenia had just fought its 10-day independence war, my driving licence was brand new and poor French roads suffered. Merci! Interesting to learn about its name.

      • Of course it is. 🙂 One is pivo, two is pivi, three is piva. Pivu means “to beer”, as in “I’ll always be grateful to beer for having met my husband.”(Just an example!)

      • Pivo, pivi, piva? Seriously? I learned “pivo” in Praga! And I was told it was “Piva” in Russian. Cousin languages share the same radicals… Now Pivu is avery good example. 😉
        So Slavic languages are even “worse” than Latin with its declinations? (Latin has always helped me a lot for languages) Thanks for the deatails. Cheers

      • They are the worst! Every noun has 6 cases, most often each with a different suffix, which answer to questions: 1. Who or what is? 2. Who or what isn’t? 3. To who or what do you give? 4. Whom or what do you see? 5. Near who or what are you? 6. With who or what are you? I have never translated these into English and now I’m quite floored by the sound of it. 😀 Ever a language fan, ask away if you wish to know anything about mine.

  3. why yes, a glass of red sounds divine…in a few minutes though, have to finish my thank you for another amazing trip to places I’ve never been. I love art…and wine…..thanks Brian ❤

  4. Montmartre – an absolute must for anyone visiting Paris. Very nice. I’m glad you did not talk about Sacré-Coeur 🙂 almost everyone associates Montmartre with Sacré-Coeur

    • Haha. That spoke to my heart. At the risk of sounding like the utter snob that I may be, I dislike the Sacré-Coeur. Bad architecture. Kitsch… 🙂
      But people love it. It is part of the show. Sometimes I go up to Montmartre and I don’t even go to the Sacré-Coeur. Or if I do, I turn my back to watch Paris down below.

    • The Bohemian side of Montmartre lasted… possibly until WWI? Picasso was there at the turn of the century. I think he left Montmartre after. Van Dongen (next post) left too after the war. And the Bohême was over… 🙂

    • Partout dans Paris et en banlieue. C’est bien pour ça que je reviens toujours à Paris! (Même si le temps me manque pour visiter d’autres coins de France que je ne connais pas)

  5. Touristy it may be, Brian, but Montmartre is famous for all the right reasons. This brought back such good memories from our the most recent visit, need to pencil in another trip as soon as the rioting has been contained!

  6. I’ve never spent much time in Montmartre during my Paris visits, but I’m definitely seeking out Le Lapin Agile next time. Last time I was in that quartier I wandered into an Irish pub. Not very Parisian. 🙂

  7. Has the rabbit in the pot truly been maintained on the side of the building since olden days? First of all: I love wall art and finding such a very old version of it makes me smile. Second, that painting would fit right in at a place called Duck & Bunny in Providence, Rhode Island that I recently visited. If you get a chance, scroll to the very last image in this post and you’ll see what I mean. https://crystaltrulove.com/2019/01/20/wintry-providence/ Also, I love love love the steampunk ferret.

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