A brilliant Neo-Impressionist artist
The lower Montmartre – Pigalle walk beginning at the Abbesses Métro station
When you come out of the métro cross over Rue des Abbesses to the St Jean l’Evangeliste de Montmartre (St. John the Evangelist) church side. This is an imposing brick Art Nouveau church which you cannot miss as you emerge from the métro station.
Now turn right and walk up Rue des Abbesses. In no more than 50 metres just before the Saint Jean café, on your left side, you will see some steps leading to a narrow street below. The street at the bottom is called Rue André Antoine. Take the stairs.
For disabled travellers please see my instructions in the introduction on how to avoid taking the stairs.
The Neo-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat had a studio at number 39 Rue André Antoine. In the picture this is the building in the middle with the triangular gable, near the bottom of the steps.
Two monumental Neo-Impressionist works
The Grande Jatte is an island on the Seine lying between the suburbs of Courbevoie and Asnières-sur-Seine to the north and Neuilly-sur-Seine and Levallois-Perret to the south. It was a chic place for picnics, walks, people watching and more in the 1880s and 90s.
These great works (as well as his Bridge at Courbevoie in the Courtauld Institute Collection London) portray areas of the banks of the Seine which are in close proximity: Asnières is almost opposite the Île de la Grande Jatte. Both the Bathers and the Sunday Afternoon paintings were painted at Seurat’s other Montmartre studio at 128 Bis Boulevard de Clichy.
Two different social classes with some time off work
It has been suggested that the working class bathers on the Asnières side of the river are observing the mostly bourgeois promenaders on the Île de la Grande Jatte.
The two works should thus be seen and understood together, as a set. Seurat has suggested this link by placing a small boat in the background of the Bathers painting. In it a man with a top hat (meaning to show that he was bourgeois) and a figure with an umbrella are seemingly being rowed in the direction of the Île de La Grande Jatte or bourgeois side.
Both workers and bourgeois had some leisure time on a Sunday; class consciousness and social convention would mean that each could spend that time in proximity but separately.
Seurat was here for a year
Seurat moved in here in 1890 with his model Madeleine Knobloch. If you visit the Courtauld Institute Collection in London you will see his beautiful painting of her as she puts on her make up: Young Woman Powdering Herself. That painting would have been executed at this address.
One of his very last works The Circus completed in 1891 (in the Orsay Museum Paris) would probably have been painted here.
Seurat only lived here one year, by 1891 he was dead at the age of 31.
Seurat’s main studio was at 128 Bis Boulevard de Clichy which is a little beyond the Moulin Rouge in the direction of Place de Clichy. The studio at 128 Bis can be seen in his Models (in the Barnes Foundation Philadelphia) where he places the young model posing on front of a section of the Sunday Afternoon at the Grande Jatte painting.
Heading towards point 2, Picasso’s Cubist studio 1909 – 1912
You now continue down Rue André Antoine, past the side of the church, right to the bottom of the street. As you emerge onto the Boulevard de Clichy you will see opposite you Place Pigalle, you now turn left.
Follow the track I have indicated by taking the walkway in the middle of the Boulevard de Clichy. Keeping Place Pigalle on your right-hand side and going past it by 50 or so metres you now arrive at point 2 which is 11 Boulevard de Clichy where Picasso had his studio and apartment from 1909 – 1912.