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.
The 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.
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.