Montmartre

 
 
 
The final day of our holiday and as our train back to London didn’t leave until after 3 p.m. We had a last morning to spend in Paris. So we decided to spend it in Montmartre.
The area around the Sacre Coeur and Place de Terte are real honey traps, thronging with tourists, but stray a short distance from the crowds and you’re soon into much quieter areas with a genuine village atmosphere, with few tourists.
First of all up to la Place d’Abbesses with it’s Art Nouveau entrance designed by Guimard. This was originally at Hotel de Ville station but was moved here some time ago.
The square was busy.
There was a small flea market taking place
And a Hot Club de France type jazz band playing. The guitarist was very good playing Django Rheinhardt style.
 
We wandered down to the square at the bottom of the steep hill leading up to the Sacre Coeur. It’s named after the socialist/anarchist who was active in the 1871 Commune, who was exiled to the New Caledonia prison colony where she supported an uprising by the indigineous people before returning to france where she continued her revolutionary activities.
 
Two of us got the funicular up to the top. The other two walked up the steep steps.
 
It was a clear day so there was a good view over Paris.
But watch out for picpockets. I was harassed to sign a petition by someone who didn’t look like an activisit and didn’t even say what the petition was about. There were no billboards, nbanners or newspaper sellers either. Instead I was persostently asked to “sign the petition”. I firmly refused, kept my hands on my valuables and walked away. A clear atempt to distract, confirmed afterwards that it was a well known scam. The scammers were behaving forcefully and persistently, trying on a well known scam at a major tourist attraction. Yet there were no police around to discourage them.
Then on to La Place de Terte
After that we left the crowds behind as we wandered round the quieter streets a short distance from the hubub
 
 
 

Saint Jean de Montmartre

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Saint Jean de Montmartre is an Art Nouveau style church in Montmartre, opposite the entrance to the Abbesses Metro station. It was built between 1897 and 1904 and is constructed from reinforced cement on a metal frame rather than from more traditional materials.. It’s architect was  Anatole de Baudot.

The facade is constructed of red brick and ceramic tiles

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The exterior decoration is relatively restrained, particularly compared with 29 Avenue Rapp, the main feature being the use of pointed arches to produce patterns reminiscent of Middle Eastern, Arabic, architecture.

The geometric design is repeated inside the church, particularly along the balcony which was installed for structural reasons

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The grey concrete surfaces did give the interior a rather sombre look and feel. The area around the altar was more colourfully decorated. I understand that it was intended to decorate more of the interior in this way but this was prevented by a lack of funding.

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I wasn’t particularly impressed by the stained glass in the main part of the church but I did like the simple Modernist geometric design of the glass in the bright The Chapelle de la Vierge (Lady Chapel) – “less is more”.

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I quite liked this chandelier like light fitting. Rather 1960’s in style.

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and he marble font, with it’s simple geometric form and decoration was attractive. I’m not so sure about the legs, though.

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It was an interesting building and certainly “worth the detour” as the Michelin guide would say!

There’s more information about the church here

La Place Saint Georges

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La Place Saint Georges is a pleasant “square” which was at the end of the road where we were staying in South Pigalle (9e arrondissement) during our recent break in Paris. Our nearest Metro station was located there.

There are two large houses facing each other across the Place. The large neo-Classical house at No. 22 is the Hôtel Thiers which had been build for one Alexis Dosne who laer sold it to Adolphe Thiers when the latter married his daughter. Thiers was an opposition leader during the Second Empire of Napoleon III and became Prime Minister after the Franco-Prussian War when Louis Napoleon was deposed. He ordered the brutal suppression of the Paris Commune of 1871, so is not exactly one of my favourite characters from history. The building was destroyed during the Commune, but was rebuilt in 1873. It was bequeathed to the Institute de France in 1905 by Felicie Dosne,  Thiers’ sister-in-law, and today it houses the Fondation Dosne-Thiers, a specialist library.

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Facing it, at No. 28, is the neo-Renaissance style Hôtel de la marquise de Païva created in 1940 by the  Edouard Renaud for the Polish-Russian the courtesan Esther Lachmann, better known as La Païva. It was later used as the HQ of the Paris Gas Company (An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb ).The building is decorated with cherubs, lions, Gothic and Renaissance style statues. She later had an even more sumptuous residence built for her on on the Champs-Élysées.

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The other main building houses a typical Parisian cafe, A La Place Saint Georges.A pleasant spot to while away some time people watching. They serve food too, which was good value but the service was slow and the staff not particularly attentive – stereotypical Parisian waiters in fact!

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The statue in the centre of the Place is of the artist, Paul Gavarni, who was known for his caricatures of Parisian  Society, the theatre and le Carnaval de Paris. The base is decorated with theatrical characters, including Pierrot. The area is a Theatrical district – the Theatre Saint Georges was just off the square and there were two other theatres at the bottom of rue la Bruyère.

Someone had tied a black blindfold on the statue. There must be some significance of this, probably a protest, but I wasn’t able to find out what this was.

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The statue was erected in 1911 and replaces a fountain, used for watering horses, which had dried up when the Metro was constructed.

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(Picture source here)

29 Avenue Rapp

One of my favourite things to do when visiting a city is to spend some time wandering the streets, soaking in the ambience and looking out for interesting buildings and other features. Virginia Woolf, who liked to wander around central London, called this “street haunting” and in Paris, a city particularly suited for this activity, there’s a term used to describe those who indulge in it – the “Flaneur”.

While exploring the Left Bank, strolling between the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire, I spotted an interesting Art Nouveau style building on Avenue Rapp.

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Now, Art Nouveau isn’t exactly well known for being restrained with respect to it’s decorative features.  And this building was one of the least restrained examples of the style that I’ve seen – and I’ve seen plenty!

A little research after we returned home revealed that the building was designed by French architect Jules Aimé Lavirotte and was built in1900/01. His name appears on the all to the right f the door.

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It has an incredibly ornate door and door frame, the latter designed by the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Larrive. A mass of whiplash curves and plant like forms with the head of a woman (probably based on the architect’s wife) flanked by statues of Adam and Eve.

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The door design is based on a particular male organ while the door handles are in the form of lizards (lézards) which is, apparently, an old French slang term used to describe male genitalia. Not very subtle then!

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The main decorative features on the facade are made of glazed earthenware and the glazed tiles embedded in the stone and in the bricks are the work of ceramicist Alexandre Bigot.

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As well as the plant-like structures and human figures there are animals including bulls’ heads and turtles supporting the balconies

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Musée Marmottan

The Musée Marmottan is one of our favourite galleries in Paris and it’s always one of the places we try to visit when we’re in the city. So it was on the agenda during our recent holiday. No photos allowed inside, alas, so the examples in this post have been clipped from the web.

A little of the history of the Musée from their website

Former hunting lodge of Christophe Edmond Kellerman, Duke of Valmy, the Marmottan Monet Museum was bought in 1882 by Jules Marmottan. His son Paul settled in it, and had another hunting lodge built to house his private collection of art pieces and First Empire paintings.

Upon his death he bequeathed all his collections, his town house – which will become the Marmottan Monet Museum in 1934 – and the Boulogne Library’s historical rich historical archives to the French Academy of Fine Arts.

It’s much smaller than the massive Musée d’Orsay (a visit there is exhausting – there’s too much to see in a day) but has an excellent collection of Impressionist paintings featuring a number of major works by Monet, including several waterlilies and “Impression Sunrise” (Impression, soleil levant) the painting after which the Impressionist school was named.

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Impression, soleil levant” by Claude Monet – wartburg.edu. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Shortly after we’d visited the gallery for the first time the painting was stolen – on Oct. 27, 1985(it wasn’t us, honest!) – but was, thankfully, recovered five years later and so is back on display to been viewed and admired.

The Musée owns the largest collection of Monet’s works, including many from the later period of his life. It’s displayed in a room specially built for the purpose in the basement of the house.

They also own an excellent collection of paintings, drawings and sketchbooks by Berthe Morisot, a favourite artist of mine, bequeathed by her descendants. The paintings on display are rotated so I’ve seen different ones during our visits to the gallery. I don’t recall seeing the following picture, which I particularly liked, before.

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Bergère couchée by Berthe Morisot (source Marmottan website)

As a woman, her opportunities for getting “out and about” were much more restricted than for her male contemporaries. She drew and painted what she experience during her daily life so many of her works were of domestic scenes and portraits in which she could use family and personal friends as models. In particular, her daughter Julie features in many paintings, which almost form a record of her growth and development from a child into a young woman.

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Girl with Greyhound  (1893) by Berthe Morisot – Musée Marmottan. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

They also show temporary exhibitions. The current exhibition La Toilette et à La Naissance de l’Intime features paintings and some other works of women during the more intimate acts such as dressing, washing and other “bathroom” activities. Many of these works were clearly paintied for the “pleasure” of wealthy men in more repressed times. So in many ways it didn’t make comfortable viewing. Our time in the gallery was limited and I wanted to concentrate on the works by Morisot and Monet, so I didn’t spend very long in this exhibition.

The Marmottan is slightly off the beaten track in a well to do part of Paris not far from the Bois de Boulogne, but well worth the ride out on the Metro. We find that it takes a couple of hours to look through the permanent collection and there are not so many that you become overwhelmed meaning that you can spend time studying and contemplating the paintings.

Address:
2, rue Louis-Boilly, Paris
Paris
Ile-de-France
France

Phone:
+ 01 44 96 50 33

Website:
http://www.marmottan.com/

Wallace and Gromit in Paris

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We’re all big fans of our fellow Wiganers, Wallace and Gromit, and the work oftheir creators, Nick Park and his colleagues at Aardman animation. So when we saw posters on the Metro and in the streets of Paris advertising an exhibition devoted to their work we just had to go and have a look.

The exhibition was taking place at Art Ludique, a museum devoted to comics, mangas, video games, live action cinema and animation films,  which is on the Quai d’Austerlitz. So we took the Metro over to the Gare d’Austerlitzand walked the short distance down the Seine to Les Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design where the museum is located.

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The exhibition features

Over 350 concept drawings, character and background studies, watercolours, and storyboards will complete this exceptional exhibition, where one can even discover Nick Park’s sketchbook as a student, containing the first drawings of Wallace and Gromit, never before seen by the public.

It covered al their work from the early animations such as Morph and the Creature Comforts film that won them their first Oscar, music videos and TV commercials and their feature films including A Grand Day out and the other Wallace and Gromit films, Chicken Run, Sean the Sheep, the Movie (a spin off from A Close Shave), Pirates Adventures with Scientists and others.

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(source ArtLudique website)

It was fantastic being able to see the models and sets. The detail in them is incredible – obsessive really as many of them hardly appear on screen, if at all, in the films.

I loved seeing the jokes and puns – I don’t know how well they’d translate into French! Some of them are only sensible when spoken with a Lancashire accent, where master animator comes from (born in Preston). An example was a bottle of washing up liquid in a set of Wallace’s kitchen which was labelled “Furry” (which is exactly how I would pronounce “Fairy”)

It was really interesting to be able to see the concept drawings which show how the characters evolved and developed from conception to screen. Here’s an early sketch of Gromit

(source ArtLudique website)

which is quite a lot different from the character we have grown to love over the years

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(Image source Wikipedia)

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The obsession with detail was particularly well illustrated by the pirate sp from Pirates Adventure with Scientists displayed towards the end of the exhibition. It was enormous and the detailing was incredible. The conceptual and technical drawings displayed with it showed the lengths the animators go to with detailed descriptions of even the smallest component

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(source ArtLudique website)

We spent a good couple of hours in the exhibition, longer than we expected. It was well worth the trip to a slightly out of the way district. It will be a pity if it isn’t transferred to the UK after its run in Paris.

Musée de l’Orangerie

Like London, there is a massive number of art galleries and museums in Paris. And like London the most well known like the Louvre and the Gare d’Orsay, are so large that it’s exhausting trying to look round. It’s guaranteed that you’ll be “arted out” before you see all but a fraction of their collections. So during our recent short break in Paris we decided to concentrate on some of our favourite smaller galleries showing Impressionist and Post Impressionist works. The first of these was the Musée de l’Orangerie, located in the south west corner of the Jardin des Tuileries.

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Of course, “small” is a relative term. The Orangerie has an exceptional collection and we spent just over a couple of hours looking around. They have a good number of works, but not so many that you become overwhelmed meaning that you can spend time studying the paintings.

The ground floor is devoted to Monet with two, large oval rooms beautifully lit with natural light, displaying  8 large murals of waterlillies which were donated to the nation by Monet after the First World War. Both the paintings and the setting are magnificent and sitting contemplating the murals was relaxing. Although fairly busy, there weren’t too many people in the galleries getting in the way.

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The lower gallery displays pictures from the Collection Jean Walter et Paul Guillaume which includes works by artists including

Cezanne,

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Derain,

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Marie Laurencin 

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Modigliani,

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Monet

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Picasso,

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Renoir,

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Soutine,

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and Utrillo

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The Butte aux Cailles

The Butte aux Cailles is an area of Paris very much off the tourist trail in the South east of the city, in the 13th arrondissement, just to the south west of the Place d’Italie. Although very much part of the metropolis these days, it was originally a village outside the walls of the city until it was absorbed in the late 1880’s, and today it still retains much of the character of a country village.

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Although the name of the area translates as “Hill of the quails”, it was named after a former landowner named Caille rather than the small game bird.

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There were three main reasons for wanting to visit the areas and have a wander round the small, interesting streets.First of all it was an area I’d never visited before during previous holidays in Paris. Secondly I’d heard that the area was noted for Street Art and I wanted to have a look.

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Finally the Butte was an important location during the 1871 Paris Commune. The staunchly working-class district was one of the strongholds where the Communards of the Fédérés de la Butte-aux-Cailles, led by the Polish émigré  Walery Wroblewskiresisted the Versaillais troops  during the latter’s final assault on the rebel city during May of 1871.  The events are commemorated by the Place de la Commune, in the centre of the district

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The Butte is also home to L’Association des Amies et Amis de la Commune de Paris 1871

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Their small shop sells a selection of books, posters and other items about the Commune

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