Famous Artists of Montmartre Tour

Lingo Immersions invites you to join our local guide  on a walking tour of Montmartre.

Journey back in time to hear about  early, heady days of the Moulin Rouge and soak up the village atmosphere of Montmartre.

Discover why Montmartre appealed to famous artists such as Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and Renoir in the past and enjoy watching  the artists of today still at work in Place du Tertre

We invite you to stop to admire the Basilica of  Sacré  Coeur which offers spectacular views over they city of Paris.

To reserve an individual or group visit, please contact:


The tour takes approximately 90 minutes

Saturdays at 15.00

25 € per person



It’s never too late to learn a new language and to broaden your horizons.

XPF Experience France takes the pain out of learning French. No need to dust off your old grammar books.

Choose from a wide selection of personalized immersive experiences and you will speak French like a native in no time.



Writers and Legends of the Left Bank tour

Paris in the roaring 1920s was an intoxicating mix of flappers, writers, artists and thinkers.   

Join Lingo Immersions on a tour of the Left Bank and walk in the footsteps of Sartre, Oscar Wide, Hemingway, Man Ray and F Scott Fitzgerald.

Tour Description :

We will begin the tour in the charming neighborhood of St Germain de Près with its ancient church and fascinating history.

We will see the cafés where Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus met and we will see where F Scott Fitzgerald lived at the height of his success.

We will stop at the hotel where Oscar Wilde spent his last days and walk the same streets as he did when he was spurned by London society.

We will visit the beautiful church of San Suplice featured in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code and we will stop to admire Delacroix’s beautiful murals inside.

Finally, we will walk in Hemingway’s footsteps as described in “A Moveable Feast” to the Luxembourg Gardens.

90 minutes

Saturdays and Sundays at 14.30

25€ per person

Edith Wharton – The Paris Years

Edith Wharton’s relationship with Paris, and all things French, started early.  As a child, she had studied French with a private tutor and she had travelled to Paris with her family as a girl.

When she returned to France in her forties, her French was flawless and she rented an apartment at the exclusive Hotel de Crillon a little way from the Louvre Museum. The hotel had two terraces looking out over Place du Concorde and a grand piano playing in the living room every evening. She had a nice penthouse apartment where she had the sensation of being up in the sky overlooking the whole of Paris.

Hotel de Crillon, Paris
Hotel de Crillon, Paris

Wharton saw the Hôtel de Crillon as a place which welcomed a cultivated set of people.  Wharton herself came from a good “old New York” family. She had money to spend and felt that, here in Paris, an intellectual woman such as herself had a voice.  In America, wealthy women were seen merely as measure of their husband’s success.

In her novel “The Custom of the Country” Wharton spells out how marriage in America puts an end to any notions a woman might have  to develop her cultural interests.  American husbands buy their wives paintings and pretty things in order to distract them from the real business of the day which takes place in the male only board rooms.

Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton

In 1907, Edith Wharton was introduced to William Morton Fullerton by her good friend Henry James. Morton Fullerton was working as a journalist in Paris for the London Times. In a letter to a friend, Wharton states that she found Fullerton to be very intelligent. However, even from the outset, she sensed that he had an air of mysteriousness about him.

Wharton was forty five years old at the time and already an established writer. Her novel, “The House of Mirth” was enjoying great success in America and she was considerably wealthy. Her husband of twenty years, Teddy Wharton, came from a good Bostonian family.

Fullerton, it seems, had a colourful past which  included homosexual relationships, a divorced wife and a blackmailing mistress.

According to Shari Benstock, Fullerton decided to move to Paris leaving “a messy and entangled sexual past” behind him. In London, Fullerton moved in the same upper-class Edwardian society as the writer, Henry James, did. It seems that, with his his overwhelming charm, he attracted a host of friends and lovers.

He was married to opera singer Camille Chabert in 1903. The following year Chabert divorced Fullerton because she could not tolerate his affairs.  He was involved simultaneously with a least two other French women – Adèle Moutot, a minor actress whose stage name was Madame Mirecourt, and Hélène Pouget, an artist’s model from Nîmes.

Fullerton was also having a “quasi-incestuous relationship” with Katherine Fullerton, his adopted sister and cousin right up to the time he met Wharton.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)

Continue reading “Edith Wharton – The Paris Years”

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec came from a wealthy, aristocratic family of standing in Albi.  His father  Count Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec married Countess Adèle Tapié de Céleyran. His parents were actually first cousins and some say this is where the artist’s problems began.

Lautrec had two unfortunate accidents when he was a young teenager which would change the course of his life.  Firstly, he fractured his left thigh bone falling off a chair in the family home of Château du Bosc.  Then, the following year, he broke his right thigh at the spa of Barèges in the Pyrenees Mountains.  He was bedridden for a time in Albi.

Lautrec’s stunted growth  would prove to be a debilitating and isolating physical condition for him for the rest of his life.  He turned to alcohol as a form of comfort and Montmartre was the perfect place to indulge himself.  As Montmartre was outside of the city walls (or the Farmer’s Wall as it was known) there was no tax on alcohol and it could be bought cheaply in the local bars and dance halls of Montmartre.

Lautrec sought solace for debilitating physical condition in art.  When he began to show some talent as an artist and his mother encouraged him by organising lessons for him with Rene Princeteau

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 - 1901)
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)

When Lautrec decided to move to Montmartre in 1884,  his mother was horrified.  Back then Montmartre was known as a place where Bohemian life thrived and there were many ladies of disrepute and prostitutes in the area.

Between Place Blanche, Pigalle and the hill of Montmartre there was a whole Bohemian world which had evolved and Lautrec took to it like a duck to water.  As for the prostitutes, Lautrec befriended most of them and even lived amongst them.  He could identify with their outsider status.

Lautrec  enjoyed sketching the prostitutes while they were dressing and getting ready for an evening’s work.  His finished works were a breakthrough in terms of painting style.  He portrayed a human side to the prostitutes  so that they came across as being almost fragile or vunerable.


The Sofa by Toulouse-Lautrec (1884)
The Sofa by Toulouse-Lautrec (1884)

Lautrec pioneered the innovative techniques of using empty spaces and stark lines. Most of Lautrec’s drawings were of people he knew who, he would either invite to his studio, or pose them in a social context such as a street in Montmartre, a dance hall, a circus, a racetrack, in a sports arena or brothel of Paris.

Many of Lautrec’s subjects derived from the Parisian world of entertainment: cafés, brothels, music halls and cabarets and he became a well known figure at Le Chat Noir due to his conspicuous appearance and his ever present sketchbook which he carried around with him.

La Gouloue and her Sister by Toulouse Lautrec (1892)
La Gouloue and her Sister by Toulouse Lautrec (1892)

Like a lot of artists in Montmartre at the time, Lautrec was addicted to Absinthe which was made up of 72 degrees of alcohol and herbs.  Algerian soldiers used it during the first World War to ward off dysentery.  While previously it had been advertised as a glamorous alcoholic drink, it was later banned after the war.

Lautrec kept a flask of Absinthe in his cane and his mother, who doted on him, became worried.   She was so worried that she organised for a gentleman friend of the family to keep him company and take care of him but they both ended up drinking Absinthe together.

The Moulin Rouge

The opening of the Moulin Rouge on 5 October 1889 was a major event of the Belle Epoque in Paris.  It was frequented by the most aristocratic and royal families of europe.  The future Edward VII was a regular visitor.

Customers of the Moulin Rouge were provided with a  lounge bar, a garden and tame moneys  for their amusement and a huge papier maché elephant was erected to house the orchestra.

When Lautrec’s famous poster, “At the Fernando Circus: The Equestreienne”,  was hung up in the entrance hall he became a valued, and frequent guest of the Moulin Rouge.

At the Cirque Fernando by Toulouse-Lautrec 1887
At the Cirque Fernando by Toulouse-Lautrec 1887


Like many artists of the time, Lautrec became addicted to Absinthe and he also enjoyed the American style cocktail drinks which were very much the fashion at the time.  As a result, he had to be put in a sanatorium in 1899.

In 1901, at the age of thirty six, had an attack of paralysis and he died in his mother’s arms.

Picasso’s early years – Montmartre


The earliest, and most important of Picasso’s Paris paintings, are the scenes of the dancers at Le Moulin de la Galette.

Picasso had come to Paris in  1900 for World’s Fair.  He stayed for two months and  immersed himself in art galleries as well as the bohemian cafés, night-clubs and dance halls of Montmartre.


                                                Le Moulin de la Galette  (1900) by Picasso

Le Moulin de la Galette painting reflects his fascination with the decadence and gaudy glamour of the famous dance hall where bourgeois patrons and prostitutes rubbed shoulders.  The painting portrays a crowded floor with dolled up and top hatted clients doing one of the new South American dances.

The painting challenges artists such as Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec who had both chosen the same subject for their paintings.  Instead of using impressionist light in his composition, Picasso favours shadows and reverts to Spainish chiaroscuro.


                                Dance at Moulin de la Galette (1896) by Renoir

John Richardson, Picasso’s biographer, points out the fact that Picasso, who at the time was new to French art, displays great confidence in pitting himself against these great masters who would have been at the top of their form.

As soon as it was painted, le Moulin de la Galette, was sold for 250 francs to a collecter named Arthur Hue, a publisher of a provincial newspaper in Toulouse.

Picasso Montmartre

                                                                                        Picasso, Montmartre

Picasso moved to Paris on his twentieth birthday to develop new art styles and, when he first arrived, he was surprised to see how unhibited couples were as they freely embraced in public.  He would not have seen this in his native country accustomed as he was to Spanish restraint. The theme of couples embracing would recur in Picasso’s paintings during those early years in Paris.


                                                                                         Lovers on The Street (1900) by Picasso

Bateau Lavoir

In 1904, Picasso settled in the Bateau Lavoir on place Ravignan (since renamed place Emile Goudeau) where he lived among Bohemian poets and writers  until 1909.

This stack of shacks had once been a piano factory and had the appearance of being a one-storey building.  However, there were three floors below ground level.  It was a labyrinth of  corridors and makeshift staircases which contained twelve artists’ studios and thirty rooms in all.  Picasso’s studio was at the top of the building.

In her memoirs ( Loving Picasso ), Fernande describes the squalor of Picasso’s living space in the Bateau Lavoir.  She tells how there was a large iron stove covered with rust, a black painted trunk which was not very comfortable, canvases and tubes of paint everywhere and there was even a mouse which Picasso like to keep in the drawer of the table.


                                                                                                             Bateau Lavoir in the 1900s

The studio would become really hot in the summer time and it was not unusual for Picasso and his friends to strip off their clothes until they were almost naked to combat the heat.

Picasso was notoriously jealous around his women and he forbade Fernande from posing for other artists.  He would even go so far as to lock her in whenever he had to leave the Bateau Lavoir so that she would not be able to meet with anybody during his absence. On one such occasion,  Picasso locked Fernande into the Bateau Lavoir to go on an errand and the studio caught fire!


                                                                                                                          The Bateau Lavoir

Fernande Olivier

Fernande Olivier took up with Picasso in 1905 when he was an unknown, relatively poor  painter.

An early watercolour paintings of Fernande shows her sleeping as Picasso  watches over her.  The theme of the sleeper being watched returns in Picasso’s later paintings and Richardson tells us that this theme  usually signals a new woman in his life.


Nude with Picasso by her Feet (1903) by Picasso

Clovis Sagot

Picasso did most of his business with an art dealer named Clovis Sagot after moving into the Bateau Lavoir.

On one particular occasion, Picasso was penniless after a trip to Holland and he invited Sagot to come see some of his paintings.  Sagot picked out two of his Dutch paintings and another painting – “Girl with a Basket of Flowers“.  Sagot offered him seven hundred francs for them.  Picasso refused.


                                              Girl with Basket of Flowers (1904)

A few days later Picasso decided to sell the paintings to Sagot after all since he was not only broke, but he also needed to buy himself some art supplies.  This time Sagot had the cheek to lower his offer to five hundred francs!

In later life Picasso described Sagot as “being a past master at assessing the exact degree  of an artist’s desperation and squeezing maximum benefit from it”.  He was, by all accounts, a hard man who exploited many of the Montmartre painters of the time.

Medrano Circus

Picasso adored the circus clowns and enjoyed chatting with them at the bar after the show.  Fernande Olivier recalls how he once invited a Dutch clown and his wife, a Polish bareback writer, to dinner.


Picasso found the theatre boring.  Instead he enjoyed listening  to guitar music, watching Spanish dancers and going to bull fights.  Fernande Olivier describes how he liked anything which he was not cut out to do himself, and anything which involved strong colours or characteristic odours.

The circus was located only a few streets away from the Bateau Lavoir and, unlike Degas or Toulouse-Lautrec before him, Picasso never shows a circus ring or audience in his paintings.  He prefers to focus instead on a single figure or couple and to use a static image rather than portray movement.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Picasso first met Guillaume Apollinaire in 1904 and,  together with Max Jacob, he was key factor in Picasso’s exposure to French culture and the avant-garde in the years before the First World War.

Apollinaire was raised in the gambling halls of Monaco, Paris and the French Riveria and he was one of the  charismatic figures in Picasso’s circle.



                                                Guillaume Apollinaire

Apollinaire had published a number of semi pornagraphic books and, according to Richardson, he opened Picasso’s imagination  to “the pagan and wider shores of sex and pornography”.  He  encouraged Picasso to picture himself in different roles which were at odds with conventional society.

The Rose Period

Picasso’s switch from the Blue to Rose period was largely due to the improvement in his fortunes, meeting the beautiful Fernande and leaving gloomy Spain for Paris, the city of lights.

During the Rose period, Picasso directs his attention towards pleasant themes such as carnival performers, harlequins and clowns.  He abandons the daunting blue colours for more vivid hues.


                                                                                                            The Harlequin’s Family (1905)

Picasso discovered the Saltimbanques one day as he was returning from visiting  friends of his family living on the other side of Paris. On the way home, he came across a troupe of acrobats whom he says stayed in his memory.

The memory of the Saltimbanques resulted in Picasso’s huge canvas painting (212 x 229 cm) which shows a group of acrobats on a plain, some of them are resting while the others are working.  This is by far the largest painting which Picasso had done so far and it was also the most ambitious.


Family of Salitmbanques  (1905) 

“Family of Saltimbanques”  depicts dusty vagrants rather than real circus performers and, instead of a circus backdrop, we see an expanse of wasteland which probably represents the shanty town which was Montmartre in Picasso’s day.

The nomads in the painting had freedom and skill and Picasso as a struggling artist would have empathised with them.

Boy Leading A Horse

“Boy Leading a Horse” is the paintings which epitomises Picasso’s Rose Period according to Sue Roe.

In this painting, we see a beautiful naked boy approaching leading a white horse  with combination of delicate colour and “a mood of awe-inspiring calm”


Boy  Leading a Horse (1906)

Paul Gauguin

Early in 1901, Picasso became familiar with some of Gauguin’s work.  Paco Durrio was a mutual friend of both artists.  Durrio,  was a great admirer of Gaugin and he put his kiln at Picasso’s disposal so that he could work in the same way as his hero.

Gauguin died in 1903 which didn’t leave much time for both artists to work together.  However, while working on some pottery in Durrio’s studio, Picasso was constantly in the presence of Gauguin’s works.  In these early years, he was using the same mediums as the elder painter – wood cuts, ceramic and oil on canvas.


                                     Oviri (1894) by Paul Gauguin

Picasso read with interest Gauguin’s book entitled “Noa Noa”, and he was fascinated by his ideas on art.   According to Richardson, this book would be the primary conduit for the primitive power, mystery and drama which Picasso appropriates for his own paintings.  Phenomena that interested Gauguin also, more often than not, was of interest to Picasso.

Gertrude Stein

Clovis Sagot  introduced Picasso to the wealthy art patrons Gertrude and Leo Stein in 1905  They bought several paintings from him, and he was to be a frequent visitor to their weekly salons on rue des Fleurus.  It was at one of these salons that Picasso was introduced to the fauvist painter Henri Matisse.

The Stein’s pavillion in Paris was the only place in Paris where there was a permanent display of all that was best in contemporary art. Picasso’s “Girl with a Basket of Flowers” was one of the first major art investments which Gertrude Stein made with her brother Leo.

Leo and Gertrude Stein were admirers of avant-garde artists and Fernande Olivier recalls how they seemed to have an instinctive flair for it.  They bought 800 francs worth of pictures from Picasso on their first visit to Le Bateau Lavoir.

gertrude stein

                          Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906) by Picasso

Gertrude Stein’s personality and appearance so fascinated Picasso that he asked to paint her portrait in the fall of 1905.  The portrait would take the rest of the winter and 90 sittings in total.

Gertrude Stein was unique amongst all the other buyers who took an interest in Picasso’s art in that she cultivated a strong relationship with him based on mutual respect.  Richardson claims that Picasso entertained a higher regard for Gertrude Stein than any other woman in knew – with the exception of his mother and his many mistresses.


                                                                                                         Gertrude Stein

Picasso used to say of Gertrude Stein and her group of friends – “ils sont pas des femmes, ils sont américains”.  Richardson descibes how Gertrude behaved as a modern-minded man.  She was, he says, self assured, forthright and disarmingly jovial.

It was because of Gertrude Stein’s daunting personality that Picasso had so much difficulty doing her portrait.  He ended up rubbing out her face and starting again.  When she claimed that finished painting did not look like her, Picasso told her that eventually it would.

Rivalry between Picasso and Matisse

In her autobiography, Gertrude Stein raccounts the rivalry that existed between Picasso and Henri Matisse.  While Matisse’s paintings were shown at the autumn and independent salons (with a considerable following), Picasso’s paintings could only really be seen in her own apartment on 27 rue des Fleurus.


                                                                                         Gertrude Stein’s salon, 27 rue de Fleurus

The challenge of opposites between the two painters would be played out at her  soirées.  It was a I-can-do-anything-better-than-you rivalry between the two artists.  “As different as the north pole is from the south pole” was how Matisse described his relationship to Picasso.  They both accelerated the pace of their creativity in order to outdo each other.

The fact that, during those early years living in Montmartre, Picasso had not mastered the French language didn’t do much to help his cause.  He found himself conscious of his lack of fluency during  Stein’s soirées and was forced to keep quiet.  In the meantime, Matisse had what  Fernande Olivier describes  as  “an astonishing lucidity of mind” which must have infuriated Picasso even more.  Matisse was, she claims, very precise and intelligent and had the ability to impress people.


                                                                                             Le Bonheur de Vivre (1905) by Matisse

When Picasso saw “Le Bonheur de Vivre” by Matisse , with its orgy of colour, it served to fire him up and to go one better.  However, Picasso had not mastered a sense of colour in his paintings.  He once said that “the only real colour is black”.  He was speaking of the Spanish painter whom he greatly admired – Vélaqsquez.

Later in life, Picasso claimed “in the end, everything depends on one’s self, on a fire in the belly with a thousand rays, nothing else counts” and then he continued to praise Matisse, who he says had the “sun in his gut”.

Picasso and Matisse met regularly and scrutinised each other’s work.  “Nobody ever looked at his work as thoroughly as I did” Picasso admitted later in life.


                                                                               Portrait of Marguerite (1906) by Matisse

After closely examining Matisse’s portrait of his daughter Marguerite, Picasso noticed that, while she was portrayed full-faced, her nose was pointed sideways.  Picasso later used the same technique for two central figures in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

In the late 1920s Picasso enjoyed provoking the elder artist by painting his own versions of Matisse’s ideas.

Ambroise Vollard

In the Spring of 1906, Ambroise Vollard, one of the greatest art dealers of the 20th century, bought twenty seven paintings from Picasso for 2000 francs.  With this money,  Picasso and Fernande decided to take their first holiday outside of France together.  They took a train to  Barcelona in Spain.

Vollard was Picasso’s principal buyer during this period and Fernande Olivier claims he had impeccable taste.  He would show up at Picasso’s studio in Montmarte and buy everything as a job lot.  She says that the best of these painting were of circus people, scenes of poverty and Salome dancing before Herod.


Tete de Femme (Fernande) (1906)

Berth Weill 

Berth Weill was a Jewish art dealer and she opened the first art gallery for avant-garde artists on 25 rue Victor-Massé in Paris.  She started out by pedaling prints by artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec.  The prints would be pegged like laundry on a clothes line from her gallery window.


Weil prided herself on fairness and she never took advantage of the impoverished artists who came to sell her their paintings.  However, once Picasso started to become successful in 1905-1906, he ceased selling his paintings through her.

The Iberian Statues

The Louvre had acquired a group of sculptures  which had been executed in the south of Spain at Cerro de los Santos near Seville from the fifth and sixth centuries.  These statues were one of Spain’s few contributions to the art of the ancient world and they were of great interest to Picasso. The brutality and the lack of distinction of these statues appealed to Picasso who was by then “anxious to demolish traditional canons of beauty” states Richardson.

During his time in Spain with Fernande, Picasso began to see how he could harness the primitivism of these statues into his work.  Away from his friends in Montmartre, in the solitude of the little village of Gosol, Picasso became possessed with a new sense of confidence.

Iberian Statue

                                                                                        Iberian Statues (6th – 5th centuries B.C.)

Back in Paris, in the hot summer of 1906, Picasso began to approach his work in new ways.   He started to work on several woodblocks making sculptures and his paintings depicted carved-looking sculpted figures.

Sue Roe describes how the elongated figures of the Rose Period had given easy to quite a different treatment of the human form.  These new figures which Picasso started to paint were more sturdy, they were chunky  and their volumes were clearly delineated.  The earlier rose palette was “replaced by brick and earth tones”.  Not only that, but the the heads of the figures became larger and their shoulders heavier.

Picasso claims that the primitivism in his work, up to and including Les Damoiselles d’Avignon” stemmed exclusively from the Iberian Sculptures he saw between Spring 1906 and Spring 1907.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

I detest people who talk about ‘beauty’.  What is beautiful?  In painting you have to talk about problems! Paintings are nothing but exploration and experiment.  I never paint a picture as a work of art.  They are all exploration.  I am always exploring, and all this searching and searching follows a logical development. (Pablo Picasso)

Towards the end of the Rose Period, Picasso had begun experimenting with bodily disfiguration but, to his contemporaries, nothing he had done up to this was as radical as Les Damoiselles d’Avignon“.

“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”   portrays five prostitutes with primal mask-like faces, and it was the precursor to cubism as well as being a visual attack on Matisse’s “les Bonheur de Vivre” the previous year. Matisse responded to this by saying that the painting was a mockery to avant-garde art.

The contrast between the sexuality and femininity together and the way the figures in the painting seem to be wearing “African masks” shocked some of his friends at the time.  Some of them declared him insane and even tried to avoid him for a while.



“Les Damoiselles d’Avignon” (1907)

According to Jonathan Jones, modernism began with Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon“. The five ladies staring out the frame of Picasso’s painting all have geometric, angular bodies and Jones notes how the faces with their bulging eyes seem to stare out at the viewer.

Picasso based the faces of the two women on the right on the African totem art that he had collected. He also was familiar with African art following a visit he made to the ethnographic museum  in Trocadero with its collection of primitive artefacts on display. Picasso recalls how the museum smelled like a flea market but it opened his eyes to the magic of masks and fetishes.   He claimed that if you gave spirits a shape then you could break free from them.

Suddenly I grasped why I was a painter.  All alone in that museum, surrounded by masks, Red Indian dolls, dummies covered with dust.  The Damoiselles came that day … because it was my first exorcizing picture. (Pablo Picasso)

“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”  can also be seen as Picasso’s reaction against the main stream art trade.  He found the impressionist paintings of his contemporaries to be shallow, he had already conformed to expressions of Parisian elegance in his paintings done during the Rose Period.  Now that he was earning a stable living, he wanted to attain artistic integrity.

In this kaleidoscope of bodies, there is no central point, no area of stillness or horizon.  The viewer  is forced to abandon looking for a narrative for this painting.  Picasso is experimenting with form, there is no story.

What we see in “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” is the fruition of his experiments as he moves form the Rose Period to Cubism.  According to Anne Baldarassi, Curator of the Picasso museum, it was a game of form with the question of the moment being how to leave the past.


Picasso’s apartment building on  11  Boulevard de Clichy

As Picasso began to make more money on the sales of his paintings, he moved to Boulevard de Clichy overlooking gardens of Avenue Frochot.  However, he still continued to hire out  his painting workshop in Montmartre because he enjoyed working in that neighbourhood.

The Paris of Ernest Hemingway

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris, it stays with you as Paris is a Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway moved to Paris with his wife Hadley shortly after their honeymoon in year 1921.  He had been told by friends back in the states that Paris was the centre of Avant-garde writing.

For Hemingway, Paris was conducive to clear thinking and, according to Noel Riley Fitch,  it was a good place for him to learn the craft of writing. As he walked through the streets and squares of Paris, his  sense of place became strongly linked to his art.

 Jeffrey Meyers describes the young Hemingway as a gentle, introspective and, at times, even quite an  innocent young man when he left his home country for Paris.  It was only in later years that he would become the swaggering and tough character that gained him worldwide fame.


74 rue Cardinal-Lemoine

Hemingway was intoxicated by the romance of Bohemian life in Paris. The apartment he first rented on rue Cardinal-Lemione was fairly basic by American standards, but the newly married couple wanted their money to last as long as possible.  Also, they preferred to travel and spend an afternoon at the horse races rather than spend money on rent.

In 1922, Hemingway rented a small studio for writing on 39 rue Descartes where French poet, Paul Verlaine, had lived 25 years before.

He rented out the top-floor room for 60 francs a month and he found it a pleasant place to work.  There was a fireplace which kept him warm in the winter, and he would often throw his orange peels into the fire or roast chestnuts there when he was hungry.

From the window, he looked over the roof tops of Paris and this alone kept him motivated to write. In this cheap room, Hemingway wrote short stories about his childhood in Michigan, U.S.A.

studio239 rue Descartes


In his memoir, “A Moveable Feast“, Hemingway describes how his senses where even more heightened when he was hungry .

You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food.  When you had given up journalism and were writing nothing that anyone in America would buy, explaining at home that you were lunching out with someone, the best place to go was the Luxembourg gardens where you saw and smelled nothing to eat all the way to Place de L’Obsevatoire to the rue de Vaugirard.


Luxembourg Gardens

Hemingway would often study the paintings in the museum of the Palais du Luxembourg  and, looking at Cézanne’s paintings in particular, helped him to write better.

As he studied Cézanne’s works, he began to recognise that his writing needed more dimension.  It was not enough to merely write simple sentences.

I learned to understand Cézanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry.  I used to wonder if he were hungry too when he painted.

Hemingway believed that his hunger was healthy for his writing during these years of poverty living in Paris.


Hemingway (1933) by Man Ray

Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein was a prominent figure in Avant-garde movement of Paris and she had a very important role among the literary circles of Paris.   Hemingway would frequently visit her at her apartment on 27 rue des Fleurus after a day’s writing to talk with her and to ask her opinion about some of the short stories he was thinking of publishing.

He first met Stein when she was in her late forties and, in “A Moveable Feast” he describes her physical appearance:

Miss Stein was very big but not very tall and was heavily built like a peasant woman.  She had beautiful eyes and a strong German-Jewish face that also could have been Friulano and she reminded me of a northern Italian peasant woman with her clothes, her mobile face and her lovely, thick, alive immigrant hair which she wore put up in the same way she probably had worn it in college.

gertrude stein

          Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906) by Picasso

On the question of money, Stein advised Hemingway that he would do far better if he purchased paintings instead of wasting it on buying fashionable clothes. She told him “buy your clothes for comfort and durability, and you will have the clothes money to buy pictures”. In 1925, Hadley and Hemingway followed her advice and purchased a painting called “The Farm” by Joan Miró.

It was Gertrude Stein who convinced Hemingway to give up his work as a journalist to focus on his writing career.


                                                               Gertrude Stein’s studio on 27 rue des Fleurus


Shakespeare and Company  was a gathering place for writers at the time.  The owner, Sylvia Beach, idolised  James Joyce and managed to get his books published.

Sylvia Beach would let Hemingway buy books on credit and she often showed concern when she thought he wasn’t eating enough.  She introduced Hemingway to Joyce in 1922 and they soon became friends.

Joyce inspired Hemingway in the way he could pare down his work to only the bare essentials and also the way in which he employed the power of suggestion in his writing.

The original premises of Shakespeare and Company was on 11 rue d’Odéon.  The photo below shows were the bookshop is situated today on 37 Rue de la Bûcherie .  It is the city’s most coveted expatriate bookshop.


Writing was not something which came easily to Hemingway.  It was a “perpetual challenge”, something which could not be taught, it was something one had to learn through long and laborious practice.

Meyers describes how Hemingway saw writing as a “fiercely competitive literary prize fight in which contemporaries pitted themselves against established masters.”`

Erza Pound and James Joyce were Hemingway’s only real friends among the writers he met in Paris.  When Hemingway first met Erza Pound, he had just finished editing the Waste Land. Like Hemingway, Pound was devoted to his writing and they became lifelong friends.

Hemingway regarded a lot of his fellow American artists who frequented the Parisian cafés with suspicion.  He believed them to be posing artists, only content to talk about their future works, never actually putting pen to paper.

He would start his day at the Select Bar eating breakfast before getting down to writing.


The Select Bar

In 1922, Hadley lost all of Hemingway’s  short story manuscripts when she was on her way to meet meet him in Lausanne for a holiday.  They were stolen from the train when it was stationed at Gare de Lyon.  For a while Hemingway thought he would never write again and the affair was disastrous blow to his marriage.

Once back in Paris, and out of pocket, Hemingway decided that maybe this was the time to turn his attention to writing a full novel.  He describes in “A Moveable Feast” how he decided to hold out as long as possible for doing so,  until the financial pressure became unbearable and when he could no longer afford to feed himself.

Max Ford

Hemingway helped Max Ford to edit the Transatlantic Review. Ford was well known in literary circles (he had been good friends with Henry James) and he had also built a reputation for his fictional achievements and editorial skills. Erza Pound confessed that he had learned more from Ford than anyone else.

Ford published Hemingway’s early stories “Indian Camp”, “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife”, “Cross Country Snow”. By the late 1920s  Hemingway started to have his writing published. In 1926, The Torrents of Spring and The Sun Also Rises were published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. In 1927 he published a short story collection, Men Without Women.

The Art World in Paris between the Wars


                      Coco Channel (1930) by Man Ray

Man Ray

Man Ray arrived in France in 1921 when the bistros and artists’ workshops in Montmartre and Montparnasse were buzzing with artists, writers and poets. He loved the arty world of Paris in which he moved.  His portraits of Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Peggy Guiggenheim, Coco Channel, Alberto Giacometti propelled him to fame in 1921.

Continue reading “The Art World in Paris between the Wars”

Salvador Dalí, Paris

“Every morning I when I awake the greatest joy of mine: that of being Salvador Dalí”

Salvador Dalí grew up in Figures, Spain, and its  rocky landscape was to become a recurrent theme in his paintings.

In 1920, Dalí began his studies at the  Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. He found his tutors he encountered there to be a disappointment  as they did not teach him anything about classicism. He was later expelled from the Academy and decided to move to Paris to continue his studies.   “Once in Paris I shall seize Power!” Dalí proclaimed.

It was in Paris that Dalí first met Gala, the love of his life and also his Muse.  She had arrived in Paris 1916 having fled  Russia during the Revolution.  She met Dalí while she was still married to Paul Éluard, the French  surrealist poet.

Continue reading “Salvador Dalí, Paris”

La Nouvelle Athènes Paris

A visit to the Nouvelle Athènes quarter of Paris begins with a visit to the Musée de la vie Romantique, 16 rue Chaptal in the ninth arrondisement of Paris. IMG_0594

The building which houses the museum has retained its original decor and character.  A secluded passage of shaded trees leads to this mansion built in 1830.

It is one of the few homes that still remain in Paris dating back to the days of King Louis-Philippe’s monarchy. The original owner,  Ary Scheffer,  was a romantic Dutch born painter whose painting were inspired by history and literature.

His painting such as Gaston de Foix (1824), Les Femmes souliotes (1828) and Françoise de Rimini  (1835) were influenced by Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.  He also drew inspiration from the writings of Goethe and Effie and Jeanie dans la prison d’Edimbourg was drawn after Walter Scott’s novel “The Heart of Midlothian”. Continue reading “La Nouvelle Athènes Paris”