Point 9 The Montmartre Museum
Now turn around from the Lapin Agile and go back the way you came, up Rue des Saules past the vineyard towards the Maison Rose (Pink House) 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.
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 of the wheelchair route.
You are now close to the Sacré Coeur and the painters’ square
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.
At the junction with Rue Norvins, 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.
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 painters’ 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.
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.
Mental health pioneers
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.
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.