Paris Walking Tour: Famous artists’ studios in Montmartre

Posted in: Paris Sights

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Le Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre

Apparently a postcard just wouldn’t do. Last week (May 20, 2010) in Paris, a thief swathed in black picked a padlock, smashed a window and stole five masterpieces from the Musée d’Art Moderne. Taken were “Dove with Green Peas” by Picasso (1911), “La Pastorale” by Matisse (1906), “Olive Tree Near l’Estaque” by Georges Braque (1906), “Woman with a Fan” by Modigliani (1919) and “Still Life with Candlesticks” by Fernand Léger (1922).

As an elegy to the echoing void the thief left behind, I’ve compiled a list of these artists’ residences and studios, peppered with a little ear-popping gossip, of course. Paris has always inspired artists. Often, though, it was their very own “room with a view” that spurred them on to dizzying (and sometimes scandalous) heights.

There are so many places I want to show you that this week I’ll take you on a stroll through Montmartre. Next time we’ll visit the other great Parisian hotbed of modern art, Montparnasse and St-Germain.

Come on, Cheapos, a-façading we will go!

Pablo Picasso
13 Place Emile-Goudeau, Le Bateau-Lavoir (1904-1909)

Picasso’s view of the Sacre Coeur

Named “le Bateau-Lavoir” because of its resemblance to the laundry barges on the Seine, this former piano factory (pictured, at top) was converted into artist studios around 1880. Rent was just fifteen francs, noise and chaos abounded and newspapers served as table linens.

It was here that Picasso met Georges Braque, who was living on the other side of the hill. “Notre pard,” Picasso took to calling the six-foot boxer, race car driver and dancer, a phrase he pinched from “Les Histoires de Buffalo Bill.” A tight bond was formed, and Cubism took flight. Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”—considered by many art historians to be the first modern painting—was painted here.

Braque’s view

11 Boulevard de Clichy (1909-1912)

As more money rolled in, Picasso was able to move downhill to Clichy. Southern exposure and northern light filled the top floor of the new spacious digs, making it a perfect studio. Here Picasso fell under the spell of the stunning view of Sacré Coeur, the bewitching redheaded model Fernande Olivier and a monkey called “Mamina.” Picasso and Braque’s relationship and experimental fragmenting continued to flourish, both racing back and forth to each others’ apartments.

Georges Braque
48 rue d’Orsel and 101 rue Caulaincourt, Hôtel Roma (early 1900s)

The then brand-spanking-new, curvaceous-but-yet-angular Sacré Coeur helped kick off Cubism by rousing both Picasso and Braque. Both were driven to paint the Neo-Byzantine stunner in all her fragmented beauty. Braque could see Sacré Coeur’s powder-white towers and turrets from his window, but from the back side of the hill.

Feeling brazen, he asked the owner of his building on rue d’Orsel to post a sign stating that there were “Cubists on every floor!” But he could back it up. Cubistas. (Just saying.)

13, Place Emile-Goudeau Le Bateau Lavoir (1906) and 7 Place Jean-Baptiste Clément (1906-1907)

Modigliani’s House

Here Modigliani started experimenting with sculpting heads with railroad cross-ties stolen from the Barbès-Rochechouart Metro Station, which was still under construction at the time. His very public and spirited fusses with girlfriends Beatrice Hastings and Jeanne Hébuterne at Place Emile Goudeau are still legendary with the locals. Cool down at the Wallace Fountain with my favorite view, located in the middle of the square.

What’s up next?

Stay tuned for next time, when we’ll head across town to see the Left Bank digs of these artists and more! What happens when Picasso meets his new infatuation Eva Gouel? Will he stay or will he go on to leave Montmartre for Montparnasse?

Like sands through the hourglass, Cheapos, so are the nail-biting days of our lives!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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One thought on “Paris Walking Tour: Famous artists’ studios in Montmartre”

  1. I am in Paris Thanksgiving week from NYC

    I would like to hire a student guide to see Contemporary and emerging galleries in Paris

    I am not looking to spend a lot–just a student who has some knowledge

    Can you advise??



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