Friday, January 2, 2009

Pierre-Auguste Renoir in Paris

One of Renoir's former homes in Montmartre,
with the Sacré Coeur in the background
I have the good fortune to live among the cobbled streets of Montmartre, within rioting distance of the Sacré Coeur and just a fifteen minute bicycle ride - all downhill - to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay.    My apartment overlooks a narrow, winding road that was painted by, amongst others, Cézanne, Picasso, van Gogh and the unfortunate Utrillo.

Lodged on the corner of our narrow lane is the pink façade of the famous Lapin Agile bistro, where the likes of Picasso, Utrillo, Derain, Braque and Modigliani once held court. It’s in this bar, formerly known as the Cabaret des Assassins, that a donkey once painted a canvas - Sunset on the Adriatic Sea - that ended up being hung in the prestigious annual Salon des Independents! It’s a lovely spot, too, to open a bottle of wine in the early evening in summer, as the sun comes streaming down the hill.

Picasso is never far from our thoughts here in Montmartre: to reach my local bar, I meander down the southern slopes of the hill past the Laundry Boat - Le Bateau Lavoir - where he once lived and painted.   There's another, more personal, connection, too: I bought my apartment from a chap - the make-up artist for President Mitterand's wife, as it happens - whose new next door neighbour, just five minutes away, is Picasso's former lover and the mother of his children, Claude and Paloma.  Her name is Francoise Gilot and, though Picasso died in 1973, Mme Gilot is still very much alive and kicking - and painting, too, as she is a celebrated painter in her own right.

Anyway, at the moment Culturissima is busy setting up two art tours for a major British client, a company that runs cultural and historic programmes across the world. The first tour is called "In The Footsteps of The Impressionists" and the second, "Renoir in Paris".  

The latter has been timed to coincide with a Renoir retrospective, Les Dernières Années, that will be held at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysées, at the end of 2009.  This exhibition, details of which have yet to be released to the general public, will concentrate on the final period of Renoir's life when his nudes, later to influence Bonnard, Matisse and Picasso, drew their inspiration from the Old Masters.

Renoir's house in autumn, with
the Montmartre vineyard in the foreground
Although born in Limoges, Renoir se considérait comme un Parisien, according to his son. He lived part of his childhood alongside the former Tuileries Palace - and even used to disturb the Queen of France with his games! - before eventually settling in bucolic Montmartre, a world away from the new Paris of the demolition man, Baron Haussmann. One of Renoir’s first houses was in rue Cortot, now a museum and it was on the hill of Montmartre, with its vineyard, windmills and sweet-smelling gardens, that Renoir painted and here one can still see the Moulin de la Galette, the windmill immortalised in the eponymous painting on display at the Musée d'Orsay.  

1 comment:

  1. Yes, that's so true - Montmartre must be one of the most beautiful places not just in the whole of Paris and France but of all Europe; it really has a village-like feel - except for the tourists - and must be the most delightful place to live. Beats Marseilles, anyway!