The Montmartre neighborhood , which translates to “hill of martyrs”, is not short on history. It starts out back in 287 AD with the first Bishop of Paris, St. Denis, picking up his decapitated head and walking off with it. A nice statue of St. Denis can be found at the basilica Sacre-Coeur that crowns the top of the hill with its beautiful white stone dome. Some of the best views of Paris can be seen from the top of this hill making it one of the top tourist stops in Paris. But, for my post here, I have chosen to focus on the places that housed the starts of the Impressionism art movement, one of my favorite periods in painting.
On this day the our class met with a local English-speaking guide who could give us the complete history of the Montmartre area. This little hill top is a bit different from the other areas of Paris with its winding streets, country-style houses, and even a vineyard or two hidden between. Today it is not a cheep place to live, but at the turn of the last century cheep rents attracted many of the top artists, writers, and performers to the area. We learned on our tour that Renoir, Utrillo, Picasso, and Van Gogh all spent time living in this neighborhood. I greatly enjoyed our historic tour of the hill, but I do need to note it was not until day 8 of class, when we visited the Musee d’Orsay to study Impressionism, that I was able to understand the importance of this cute little hilltop . It was in the artist studios, cafés, and gardens the art of Impressionism and Cubism was created. If you are coming to Montmartre, highly suggest you visit the d’Orsay museum and view the paintings too.
The above pictured Lapin Agile Cabaret was once one of the local hangouts for Renoir, and Picasso. It has been featured in the artworks of Utrillo, and in Picasso’s ” Au Lapin Agile” painting. It also became the subject of the play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” in 1993.
54, Rue Lepic, the Montmartre home where Van Gogh lived with his brother around 1886. Living in Montmartre introduced Van Gogh to Impressionism style of painting that features visible brush strokes and an unfinished soft feel. This was a time period of rejection of the academic ideas of what art should be.
The Moulin de la Galette is the windmill that Renoir made famous in his paintings of the garden parties that took place in the garden sounding it. It has also the subject of “Le Moulin de La Galette” by Van Gogh, and “Ball at the Moulin de la Galette” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Renoir’s painting “Le Moulin de la Galette” showing the famous garden parties in Montmartre. On day 8 of our class trip we visited Musee d’Orsay to study Impressionism art and see the works of many of the famous painters who lived in Montmartre at this time.
Here is the grand Musee d”Orsay. The museum is housed in an old railway station and has the worlds largest collection of Impressionist art along with many other great finds. This turned out to be one of my most favorite museum stops on the trip and one I will be going back to if I ever get the chance to visit Paris again. Enjoying art here is a relaxing experience where I found that I had the freedom to really stop and look at the collection. Not all museum visits in Paris were this easy. The visit also helped to get me excited about the upcoming class trip out to see Monet’s garden.