Upon returning from Paris, I decided my first painting from the trip would be the quaint pink house turned bistro at 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir, Montmartre. I began the painting process in Mid-April and just finished up a couple of weeks ago, taking a hiatus to create the 5th grade promotion video for my sons’ class.
Because of the hilly nature of the Montmartre landscape, the perspective on this one was extremely difficult. From where I took the photograph, the bistro and street corner were slightly below me receding into the distance at a slight angle. Not one single point was straight!
While researching La Maison Rose, I learned that Picasso himself had frequented the place and that it was home of Germaine Pichot, a well known painting model and notorious femme fatale. Picasso and Carlos Casagemas, Picasso’s best friend, met Germaine when they first came to Paris in 1900. Carlos fell madly in love with Germaine, but the feelings were not mutual.
In 1901, in his grief and drunkenness, Carlos attempted to shoot Germaine. He missed his target and instead turned the gun on himself. Shocked and saddened by his friend’s death, Picasso fell into a depression. It was this tragic incident that provoked his Blue Period. Germaine was depicted in Picasso’s 1905 painting At the Lapin Agile shown below.
The Blind Man’s Meal] is one of Picasso’s most moving pictures from his Blue Period (autumn1901–mid-1904). Most prevalent among his subjects were the old, the destitute, the blind, the homeless, and the otherwise underprivileged outcasts of society. The painting is not merely a portrait of a blind man; it is also Picasso’s commentary on human suffering in general. Additionally, the work elicits affinities to Picasso’s own situation at the time, when, impoverished and depressed, he closely identified with the unfortunates of society. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The destitute outcasts featured in Picasso’s Blue Period gave way, in 1905, to circus performers and harlequins in more colorful settings. The Lapin Agile was originally conceived to decorate a bar in Montmartre, the interior of which is depicted here. Standing at the counter is Picasso himself, dressed as the melancholy and gaunt Harlequin in a vivid diamond-patterned shirt and three-cornered hat. Behind him, in profile with heavy makeup and pouty lips, leans Germaine Pichot, wearing a gaudy orange dress, bead choker, boa, and feathered hat. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
It seems a million years ago that we were in Paris; so much has happened in the past three months. But I feel the need to finish writing about Paris, if only to relive my wonderful memories.
My most favorite day of the vacation had to be the day I visited Montmartre. In another life, Montmartre was a bohemian hilltop haven, home to some of the world’s greatest artists, writers, and poets. The winding cobblestone streets, small boutique-style shops, infamous dance halls, and Place du Tertre, where local artisans paint en plein air, sounded like heaven to me and I couldn’t wait to spend the day exploring!
After a 30 minute metro ride from Grenelle, I finally landed at Abbesses, which I later learned is the deepest station in the Paris Metro system at 118 feet below ground! The ground-level entrance is beautiful! It is one of the last remaining Art Nouveau glass-covered designs created by French architect Hector Guimard.
Upon exiting the station, one of the very first sights you come to is “Le mur des je t’aime” (I love you: the wall). Here the words are written 311 times in 250 different languages and dialects. People come from all over the world to see the wall and declare their love for one another.
As I navigated the cobblestone streets, I wondered if Picasso or Van Gogh had walked these exact streets before me. I stopped into a few little quaint shops. I really wanted to buy a piece of local art, but the prices were outrageous!
Next, I found a funky little resale shop and knew I stumbled onto something. How cool would it be to own something once worn by a Parisian? I tried on a few tops, but nothing fit quite right. Then I spotted an adorable little rain coat and voila, perfection! The best part? It was only 5 Euros! I had found my little memento for the day.
I continued my journey climbing a series of steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings, steps-and-landings for what seemed like a mile to reach the “Place on the hill” (Place du Tertre). The square was covered by mostly portrait & caricature artists with their easels and surrounded on all sides by over-priced cafes and shops. Only a handful of people were actually painting.
Most were just trying to make a euro by accosting tourists. I held out for quite, walking around the square admiring some of the art, until one gentleman with a kind face asked if he could do my portrait.
I was sure this wouldn’t end well for my pocketbook, but after climbing all those steps, I wanted to sit down and take a load off. We struck up a conversation about art and family among other topics, and I actually enjoyed my time with him. When all was said and drawn, I came away with an adorable caricature, a twenty minute respite, a nice conversation, and only a minor dent in my wallet. It was well worth it!
Just past the square is the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The Roman Catholic church was designed in a Romano-Byzantine style inspired by sister churches of Italy and was completed in 1914. The exterior was carved from a type of travertine stone whose calcite turns white when it mixes with rainwater. It was a beautiful sight.
The entire city of Paris is visible from the front court of the Basilica. The dome sits over 650 feet above the River Seine and you can see for 30 miles. It is the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.
After wandering outside the Basilica for a while, I continued on. I headed West on Rue Cortot and stumbled upon the Musee de Montmartre.
The building was built in the seventeenth century as The Bel Aire House and is considered the oldest in Montmartre. During it’s peak, it served as a meeting place, studio space and home for many well-known artists, such as Renoir and Émile Bernard. The museum houses many great works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, and her son Maurice Utrillo. I wanted to view the collections, but unfortunately, their credit card machine was not working and they would not take my American dollars. I was out of luck, so I kept on exploring…
Just around the corner at 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir was the most quaint bistro, La Maison Rose. It’s bright pink exterior and green shutters stand out against the surrounding buildings and landscape. I was able to capture this wonderful image of a young couple dancing in front of the cafe. It is my favorite moment from the day.
Just down the street I passed by Clos Montmartre – the last active vineyard in Paris. It covers over 1,800 square yards and contains 1,900 vines of 28 different grape varieties.
After sightseeing for a few hours, I was famished and it was getting chilly outside; time to take a break and warm up. I wandered into a small cafe called Chez Ginet and settled in for a hot cup of cappuccino and a goat cheese/eggplant salad. It was absolutely delicious and so pretty. I had to take pictures!
It was starting to get dark now, but there was one more check on my “To Do” list before calling it a day. Relying on my trusty iPhone GPS, I followed the main streets to my final destination. Along the way I passed over the Montmartre Cemetery where countless well-known artists, playwrights, authors, and dancers are buried.
Making a left onto Boulevard de Clichy, I continued on. It was dark now, perfect for viewing the infamous dancehall. As I made my way, I passed by numerous “adult shops”. I clutched my purse a little tighter. Not once did I ever feel afraid or threatened, but it was dark and judging by the shops, it may not have been the best place to be a lone woman. Finally, there she was, the Moulin Rouge, lit up in all her splendor. What a sight! You could almost hear the music from inside.
Judging by the crowd of tourists taking pictures, I was not alone in my quest. I snapped several photos and then disappeared underground to catch the Metro. I settled in for the ride back, ruminating about all the wondrous sights, sounds, tastes, and memories of the day. Montmartre. My favorite day in Paris!