Sunday, 22 March 2015

musée de montmartre

This museum might have been the very reason that led me to start a blog. I was so charmed with the place and the whole story behind it that I felt compelled to share more than a few pictures on Instagram. You know that feeling? When you come across a beautiful place that not many people seem to know about and you want the whole world to know. Rest assured, I’m not imagining the whole world will in fact read this post, but sharing it with however few feels good.

Beautiful, even on a grey winter day, I promised myself that I will return when spring fully arrives and everything in the lovely garden will be in bloom. It might sound like when you’re buying that shirt because the colour will look good on you once you get a tan, but trust me; Musée de Montmartre looks good any day.

It's located in Montmartre’s oldest house, formerly known as the Bel Air House and built in the 17th century, on the top of Butte Montmartre right next to the last vineyards. It hosts a little unique collection on the history of Montmartre and is surrounded by the Renoir gardens. The whole setting is so idyllic; it will make you remember how this place was once a village.

The most memorable part of my visit to the museum was entering the studio of Suzanne Valadron. This painter, whom I hadn’t heard of before, has an incredible story. She was born in 1865 and grew up in poverty with her mother who was a laundress (father unknown). She began to work at the age of 11 and at 15 she became a circus acrobat, but had to end that career after a serious fall from a trapeze. This is when she started modelling for artists such as Renoir & Toulouse-Lautrec. (You can recognize her on several of their paintings.) While modelling, she taught herself how to paint and later became the first woman to enter the prestigious Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

At the age of 18, she gave birth to an illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo, who would also become a painter. She married a banker and led a very “bourgeois” life for several years, but at the age of 44 she started an affair with one of her son’s 23 year-old friend, the painter André Utter. They were married for 20 years. She and Degas were close friends and Picasso attended her funeral in 1938 after she died of a stroke. Her most known works are female nudes and you can find some of them at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Centre Pompidou here in Paris. And most of all, you can visit her studio and private apartment here at Musée de Montmartre.

When I went to there, I was lucky to see the wonderful studio of this highly unconventional & rebellious lady without anyone else in the room. This sweet museum guard told me to have a seat on the divan and stay for as long as I wished, and so I did. It almost felt like traveling back in time and what more could you really ask of a museum than setting you back in the time and into the spirit of their very collection on Montmartre’s history?

Once I got home, I was so inspired by Suzanne Valadron’s work & life that I started reading more about her son, who lived with her in the Bel Air House for several years. Self-destructive and alcoholic at an early age it seems that painting was what saved Maurice Utrillo, even though he spent many years in different asylums throughout his life (I might have a slight obsession with tormented & rebellious artists). Many of his paintings are set in the streets of Montmartre and he was a recognized painter who was awarded the Légion d’honneur.

So next time you’re in Paris and/or when you have a few hours to spend, please go and have a look at this little gem. It’s Montmartre, history, architecture, vineyards in the heart of Paris and a lovely garden, what more could you reasonably ask for? But if you must ask, yes they also serve coffee in their little Café Renoir.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Your blog and instagram account have made it possible for this Stay at Home midwestern farm Mom of 5 to explore Paris.Thanks for sharing!

    1. This is just the best comment. I'm so happy to hear that. Thanks!

  3. I love finding places that I feel know one else knows about. Congratulations on getting your blog up and running - I think you've hit a great idea on exposing us to something beyond the typical Parisian fodder. I'm anxiously awaiting food pics. :)

    And no, despite how well it suits me, Angry is not my given name. Only assummed. (where's the damn winky emoji??)

    1. *no one else knows about. (I promise to spend more time proofreading my next comment.)

    2. Thank you mrs Baker (that new name is gonna take some time getting used to). Food pics will come ;)


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