The Montmartre Museum The Montmartre Vineyard The Lapin Agile

Points 6,7,8,9 and ? Around the Lapin Agile and Montmartre Museum

A greyed out general map of the In the Footsteps of the Artists Tour of Montmartre featuring a clear area on the map showing point 6 the Maison Rose (Pink House) Rue de l’Abreuvoir Paris 75018 and point 7 the Clos de Montmartre (Montmartre Vineyard) Rue des Saules Paris 75018 point 8 the Lapin Agile Rue des Saules Paris 75018 and point 9 the Montmartre Museum Rue Cortot Paris 75018.
Highlighted area shows point 6 the Maison Rose (Pink House), point 7 the Clos Montmartre (Montmartre Vineyard), point 8 the Lapin agile, point 9 the Montmartre Museum. © OpenStreetMap contributors, the Open Database Licence (ODbL).
personalised keys to the OpenStreetMap map of the walk In the Footsteps of the Artists around Montmartre.
Keys to sights and directions. © David Macmillan.

Point 6 La Maison Rose

Following the direction indicated by Dalida’s bronze bust, we walk up the gently rising Rue de l’Abreuvoir. We now arrive at La Maison Rose (the Pink House) on the junction of Rue de l’Abreuvoir and Rue des Saules.

Maurice Utrillo, son of model turned artist Susan Valadon, painted the scene and, because history records him as being fond of the Montmartre bistros, would have drunk in it many times.

Many painters of the period were from wealthy bourgeois or aristocratic families. Painters such as Degas, Manet or Toulouse-Lautrec were from privileged backgrounds.

Susan Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo were neither bourgeois nor aristocratic but from humble origins. The native urban style they developed became known as the ‘Paris School’.

Some of Utrillo’s works are to be seen in the Orangerie Museum near to Place Concorde, Paris

An OpenStreetMap detail of the signed route map from point 6 the Maison Rose (Pink House), point 7 the Clos Montmartre (Montmartre Vineyard), point 8 the Lapin agile, point 9 the Montmartre Museum.
The route leading from point 6 the Maison Rose (Pink House), point 7 the Clos Montmartre (Montmartre Vineyard), point 8 the Lapin agile, point 9 the Montmartre Museum. © OpenStreetMap contributors, the Open Database Licence (ODbL).

The information panel put up by the Mayor of Paris reads:

The metalic information panel put up by the Mayor of Paris outside the Maison Rose (Pink House) in Montmartre. The text is in French and is translated in the body of the page text.
The Mayor of Paris’ information panel (in French) about the Maison Rose (Pink House).

‘Maurice Utrillo’s Pink House:

Maurice Utrillo was born in Rue du Poteau in 1883. His mother was Suzanne Valadon. Suzanne Valadon (1867 – 1938) was an acrobat and painter’s model who was encouraged by Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir to develop her own powerful, and expressionistic (painting) technique.

After his first confinement in Sainte-Anne (a Paris mental hospital) in 1900, his mother, following the doctor’s advice, introduced him to painting.

As attached to the urban setting as his mother was to the portrait, Utrillo broke away from the landscape painting tradition creating a poetical and melancholic portrait of the city.

Most of his works are set in the streets of Montmarte, the style is driven by the wish for perfect representative realism similar to the naive painting style.

In spite of his reputation as a ‘cursed’ painter he was in fact successful from 1919 onwards. Utrillo died in 1955 and is buried in the Saint-Vincent cemetery (also in Montmartre) between his mother and his partner, Lucie Valore.’

For wheelchair users please return to point 6 on the dedicated wheelchair page.

At the Maison Rose turn left into the Rue des Saules and head down the hill, on the way down, to your right you will see a vineyard.

Point 7 le Clos Montmartre (The Montmartre enclosure) vineyard

The vineyard, which is now run by the city authorities, perpetuates another centuries old Paris area tradition: winemaking. Winemaking in Montmartre was historically associated with the Abbesses of Montmartre.

Vineyards, here and elsewhere in the Parisian region, helped the development of makeshift restaurants and cabarets; the ‘Guingettes’. Remember Montmartre was outside the Paris city limits until 1860 so wine was cheaper here than in Paris. All wine entering Paris had to pay a tariff at the Paris city wall which, in the case of Montmartre, was were Boulevard de Clichy runs today.

Vines not buildings

By the 1930s all other wine cultivation had been uprooted and cleared, a victim of property speculation as the area became gentrified. A committee of dedicated locals was led by the caricaturist Francisque Poulbot. He is best known for his designs and cartoons of the Montmartre street kids known as ‘Poulbots’. The committee campaigned, occupied the area, and managed to persuade the local authorities to stop the speculators in their tracks and save the vines.

The documentary film maker stephen Macmillan seen filming with camera and sound recording equipment in the Clos Montmartre vineyard.
Documentary film maker Stephen Macmillan filming in the Clos Montmartre

The result is what you see on front of you now, an interesting, picturesque and well-tended parcel of vines in the heart of the city. The grapes are collected by hand then pressed and stored in the cellar of the local town hall. Every year in October the Mayor of the 18th arrondissement organises the popular Montmartre Wine Festival with the approximately 1500 bottles that the vineyard produces being sold at auction for charity.

The story of a year in the life of the Montmartre vineyard from vine to bottle was patiently observed by the documentary film maker Stephen Macmillan who is my brother. A taster of his film the Clos Montmartre is available here.

Point 8 The Lapin Agile

Continue down the Rue des Saules to the far end of the vineyard. The small building at the corner of the vineyard with green shutters, rustic concrete fence and trees in front is the Lapin Agile. A famous watering hole and Montmartre institution at the beginning of the 20th century, many writers, artists, musicians, actors and poets have passed through here. It is a café and cabaret which specialises in a style of socially conscious French song typical of the late 19th early 20th century, accompanied by piano or guitar.

The Lapin Agile cabaret Montmartre. A modest one story building with some trees in front surrounded by a green and yellow rustic fence. A famous Montmartre cabaret of the early 20th century. Rue des Saules 75018 Paris
The famous Lapin Agile cabaret, a bohemian watering hole at its height before World War I.

André Gill’s agile rabbit

The name means the agile rabbit or Gill’s rabbit; it comes from the commercial ensign painted by the artist André Gill in the 1870s showing a rabbit skipping out of a frying pan with a bottle of wine on its arm, wearing a red neckerchief and sash. Because the rabbit (lapin) was painted by Gill, the sign, which quickly became famous in Montmartre, came to be known as the Lapin à Gill (Gill’s Rabbit). By repetition this became Lapin Agile (Agile Rabbit), this latter name stuck.

Frédé and the Lapin Agile

In 1903 Frédéric Gérard known as Frédé became landlord. Frédé was well known in Montmartre where he would go round the streets selling fish carried by his donkey. Other animals belonging to Frédé such as a crow, a goat, a monkey or his pet white mice would sometimes make an appearance at the cabaret. He also had another café called the Zut where Picasso was a regular so Picasso came to the Lapin Agile too. Frédé, was musical and easy going. He too wore a bandanna round his neck and sometimes on his head. This photograph shows him singing and playing his guitar as an attentive bohemian audience looks on.

Frederic Gerard known as Frede the landlord of the Lapin Agile cabaret in Montmartre plays the guitar on front of an attentive audience gathered around a table. The room is sparsly decorated with wooden chairs and tables. In the background Picasso’s painting of a harlequin and companinion known as At the Lapin Agile can be seen on the wall.
Frédé plays guitar to an attentive bohemian audience at the Lapin Agile cabaret in early 1900s. © [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. (1)

Picasso’s painting Au Lapin Agile (At the Lapin Agile) hanging in the Lapin Agile

We can catch a glimpse of Frédé (wearing clogs) in Picasso’s painting Au Lapin Agile (At the Lapin Agile) which was painted in 1905, in the Bateau Lavoir, and hung in the cabaret. The work can just be made out to the left of the sculpture of the Christ figure in the above photograph.

In the foreground of the painting are two melancholic figures, a self-portrait as Harlequin and a woman. Both figures seem self-absorbed, hardly aware of the other. The woman is said to be a portrait of Germaine the artists’ model for whom Casagemas, the close friend of Picasso’s who accompanied him on that first trip to Paris in 1900, shot himself.

Frédé, who had some outstanding bills to pay, sold the painting some time later. The sum he received is not recorded. In 1989 in New York the painting was sold for $40.7 million. The buyer was Walter Annenberg businessman and diplomat. He generously left it to The Metropilitan Museum of Art in New York where it can be seen now.

For wheelchair users please return to point 6 on the dedicated wheelchair page.

An OpenStreetMap detail of the signed route map from point 6 the Maison Rose (Pink House), point 7 the Clos Montmartre (Montmartre Vineyard), point 8 the Lapin agile, point 9 the Montmartre Museum.
The route leading from point 6 the Maison Rose (Pink House), point 7 the Clos Montmartre (Montmartre Vineyard), point 8 the Lapin agile, point 9 the Montmartre Museum. © OpenStreetMap contributors, the Open Database Licence (ODbL).

Point 9 The Montmartre Museum

personalised keys to the OpenStreetMap map of the walk In the Footsteps of the Artists around Montmartre.
Keys to sights and directions. © David Macmillan.

 

The oldest standing building in Montmartre houses the Montmartre Museum 12 Rue Cortot Paris 75018. The building features typical wooden Parisian shutters and a sign above the door proclaiming the Musee de Montmartre (Montmartre Museum)
The Montmartre Museum is housed in the oldest building in Montmartre. It features a garden and reconstruction of Utrillo’s and Valadon’s studio.

Now turn around and go back the way you came, up Rue des Saules past the vineyard towards the Maison Rose again. When you reach the Maison Rose turn left into Rue Cortot and make for number 12 which is the Montmartre Museum.

The Museum, which is housed in a complex of buildings some of which date back to the 17th century, surrounds a pleasant garden. It is worth a visit if you have time. Inside you will see a print of Steinlein’s poster for the famous Chat Noir cabaret, the ensign for the Lapin Agile we talked about at point 8 and a reconstruction of Susan Valladon’s and Maurice Utrillo’s studio. I mentioned Valladon and Utrillo at point 6 La Maison Rose. The collection evokes the times through objects rather than possessing any really famous paintings.

Renoir’s routine

Whilst Renoir’s painting the Bal du Moulin de la Galette was painted at the Moulin de la Galette, it was stored here where Renoir rented some space. Every day whilst it was being composed, Renoir and his friends, probably some of the people you can see in the painting, would carry it from here to Le Moulin de la Galette. The route they followed would have been the one you have just been on from the Moulin de la Galette or the one you will follow shortly, if you stick to my guide!

Renoir painted the garden here a number of times. The modern swing you can see is supposed to be where the one Renoir painted was. His painting La Balançoire (The Swing) is very much in the sunlit Moulin de la Galette style and it too can be seen at the Orsay Museum.

We now leave the Montmartre Museum. Turn right to return the way we came up Rue Cortot. You will see La Maison Rose in front of you. Now turn left into Rue des Saules which rises between some strong buttressing walls put there, no doubt, to help stabilise subsidence from the quarrying that I mentioned in the introduction.

For wheelchair users return to point 5 wheelchair route.

The question mark ?

Once you approach the top of the Rue de Saules you are on the fringe of the tourist hot-spot area of Montmartre with some of the attendant hassle of  crowded tourist areas.

An OpenStreetMap detail of the signed route map from point 9 the Montmartre Museum Rue Cortot to the junction with Rue Norvins. A question mark signifies that the walker may choose to visit the Sacre Coeur and brave the tourist hotspots of Montmartre
The route leading from point 9 the Montmartre Museum to Rue Norvins. If you turn left then you go towards the Sacré Coeur and the tourist hot-spots of Montmartre. © OpenStreetMap contributors, the Open Database Licence (ODbL).

At the junction with Rue Norvins, I have put on my map a large question mark; it means if you care to turn left here then you will be going towards the best known and most crowded tourist attractions of Place du Tertre and the Sacré Coeur.

Official estimated figures published by the Paris Tourist Office put the number of visitors to the Sacré Coeur at 10 million for 2016. So why not make a quick tour if that is what you fancy. The view from the area on front of the Sacré Coeur over Paris is certainly spectacular.

View of Paris from the Montmartre Hill. Viewpoint is from on front of Sacré Coeur church. Distant Paris rooftops are lit up by weak winter sun
The view of Paris from the area on front of the Sacré Coeur.

At the end of Rue des Saules the street to your left is Rue Norvins. If you go about half way down this street you will come to 14 bis Rue Norvins. This is Le Vieux Chalet (The Old Chalet) restaurant. It dates from the same era as the Lapin Agile and had a reputation among the artists and writers of the day for being cheap and honest.

Where the footsteps stopped

Braque, Modigliani, Renoir, Picasso all ate here. I’ve included it because we are following in the footsteps of the artists and this is one of the places where the footsteps stopped. The restaurant does not seem to have a website so here is a link to Tripadvisor reviews in English.

For wheelchair users return to top of Montmartre Funicular.

Having seen what most people only see when they come to Montmartre (i.e. the Sacré Coeur and the painter’s square), let’s get back to tracking down the artists. Make your way back along Rue Norvins from the Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre as far as the junction of Rue des Saules and Rue Norvins. On the map this is where the question mark is and so we rejoin the route ‘In the Footsteps of the Artists’.

If you have not made the detour to the Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre then you just turn right from the Rue de Saules at its junction with Rue Norvins. The Sacré Coeur is now at your back, go down Rue Norvins a little.

An OpenStreetMap detail of the signed route map showing the Commanderie du Clos Montmartre and the Folie Sandrin opposite. Both buildings are in Rue Norvins Paris 75018.
The route down Rue Norvins to see the Commanderie du Clos Montmartre and the Folie Sandrin opposite. © OpenStreetMap contributors, the Open Database Licence (ODbL).

Mental health pioneers

The Sandrin Folly a three story 18th century white classical building seen through ornate railings. Rue Norvins Paris 75018
The Sandrin Folly building where therapeutic mental health care was developed in France.

Before we leave Rue Norvins, there are now two buildings ahead that catch the eye: an octagonal stone building to your left and a large town house set back from Rue Norvins opposite the octagonal building. The building to the right was the home of Dr Blanche. He appears to have been a pioneer in mental health care opening a therapy centre here.

The metalic information panel put up by the Mayor of Paris outside the 'Sandrin Folly' (The Sandrin Mansion) in Montmartre. The text is in French and is translated in the body of the page text.
The Mayor of Paris’ information panel (in French) about the Sandrin Mansion where therapeutic mental health care began in Paris.

The information panel put up by the Mayor of Paris reads:

‘The Sandrin Folly

In 1774 Master Sandrin acquired, in the middle of the village of Montmartre about an acre and a half of land where he intended to build himself a luxurious country house or “folly”. He sold the property to a wine merchant in 1795 and it was subsequently converted into a clinic in 1806 by Doctor Prost, a mental health specialist. Prost followed Pinel who had broken with the normal practice of keeping those judged insane in chains whilst committed to an asylum. Prost following Pinel’s example experimented with innovative treatments.

“Ethically motivated treatment is sometimes more effective than standard treatment. One has to have a natural disposition in one’s character for gentle benevolence, which because it is unfailing in nature, inspires and gains the confidence of the patient and allows him to do, without effort, what is appropriate for his state (of mind).”

These methods were soon successful particularly with writers and artists suffering from fatigue or depression. In 1820 Doctor Esprit Blanche took over the running of an already celebrated and successful institution.

Aided by his wife who was also driven by the same philanthropic vision, Doctor Blanche tried to encourage a peaceful family atmosphere among those who chose to come here.

The most distinguished of all his patients was Gérard de Nerval (a writer 1808 – 1855): “Here began, for me, what I will call the outpouring of dream into real life” ‘.

The building opposite is known as the Commanderie du Clos Montmartre. It was designed as a water tower in the early 19th century and now serves as HQ for the Commanderie du Clos Montmartre, the local grouping that helps to organise the yearly Montmartre Wine Festival (see point 7 Clos Montmartre).

The footsteps now lead us towards our next stop: Toulouse-Lautrec’s studio.


All photographs © David Macmillan except:

(1) Photographic attribution courtesy of the Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons Attribution generator :

Unknown, Cabaret du Lapin Agile avec les artistes écoutant le père Frédé à la guitare, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons