Charles de Gaulle Etoile underground stop, a young girl with long reddish hair and sleepy eyes sits in front of me: a “typical Parisian beauty”, I think. But how can we define a Parisian beauty? Is it because she seems to come out of a painting? Whose painting? In my arts archive I see Toulouse Lautrec’s, Tissot’s, Renoir’s women, but also Suzanne Valadon’s, Atget’s photographic portraits, Paris at the end of the 19th century.
I think about the typical characteristics of Parisian women: a little nose, round dark eyes of someone who has not slept much… they are elegant and a little distressed.
Beauty becomes typical of a certain place, or a certain time, when it let us glimpse something unique and special and allows us to recognize it from the rest. Only some increasingly rare faces show traits which remind us of unmistakable models. This young lady in the underground reminded me of French art, the one that belongs to the Masters of great Parisian Painting.
Today I want to feel this “magic in the air”, that fluid which allows me to breath the same air of that time.
I decide to walk exactly where they used to. I want to find traces, hints and combine them while I retrace their footsteps.
It’s a research through the senses: the places that belong to the history of painting and sculpture, to the artists’ life in the big city, with colors and folders, paper sketchbooks, inks. A fantasy – yet a true one – because it is made of paths, ateliers, meetings, just like true life. Where are these places? What are they like today?
Each time I come back to Paris I retrace their footsteps, the artists’ footsteps. They take me far away in time, to my home, a place where I belong.
I walk away from the crowded avenues of the centre in search of that little street in Montparnasse where a school of painting and drawing lies since the beginning of the 20th century.
I realize that I am walking on the same footpath where Gauguin, Delacroix, Cezanne, Manet, Picasso used to walk… I climb the blue wooden creaky stair to find the classrooms and old easels, the models, the glass ceilings with sunshades – they are all still there. How many people have studied and drawn here? So many hours trying to understand shapes, lights, shadows…
Antoine Bourdelle could still be here, in this school where I discover he used to teach… or among the intact marvels of his studio, which is a few steps from here and has been preserved from collateral restoring.
The wooden floor is still creaking: it is a constant in time, just like the doors. The grayish blue, in its precise shade, has incarnated almost everywhere: it seems to be the color of light, effusing over everything, on casts, on sculptures, on the old stove with exposed pipes, on cupboards, on the mezzanine, on the wooden supports, on the bronze statuettes.
It seems to me that the sculptors could open the door anytime, with their dust on, with Camille Cloudel’s eyes still talking.
These walks around Paris, searching for the most intimate art places, have become in time a precise itinerary that I wish to share with you, just like I love to share recipes, histories and any kind of thought.
These places have been my school, just like the artists who lived in them.
I learnt to love light looking at their Paintings and this somehow takes me back, from wherever I am, to the places where I feel deeply connected with a history that belongs to me and guides me in search of these (almost) secret, little, big treasures.
MY FAVORITES ATELIER & MUSÉE DES ARTISTS
Paris is one of the top destinations if you are looking for museums, art galleries and places of culture and that’s why I wish to say that the following list is just a little part, amongst my favorites, of many interesting places in town. This is just an idea for an alternative itinerary to discover places which are related to Fine Arts and History.
That is not meant to be an exhaustive guide or a complete list, but just a suggestion to visit some places which, in my opinion, have maintained untouched the spirit of the artists that used them as creative spaces.
- Musée Bourdelle, Un atelier musée | 16-18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015
Currently my favorite Atelier in Paris. Pictures in this post were took here!
The museum preserves the studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861–1929), and provides an example of Parisian ateliers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was Bourdelle’s active studio from 1885-1929.
- Musée de Montmartre et Jardins Renoir | 12-14 Rue Cortot, 75018
The museum is housed in two buildings, which are three centuries old, the Hotel Demarne and the Maison du Bel Air. It was home to many famous artists and writers such as Renoir who painted his celebrated La Balançoire and Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette here in 1876.
In fact just a few steps from the Place du Tertre, there are three gardens dedicated to Auguste Renoir – who lived on-site between 1875 and 1877 – surrounding the Museum.
- Musée Delacroix | 6 Rue de Furstenberg, 75006
Delacroix spent the last years of his life (from 1857 to 1863) in this haven of peace in the heart of Paris. The Musée National Eugène Delacroix occupies the painter’s apartment as well as his studio, located in his private garden.
- Musée Gustave Moreau | 14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld, 75009
The Musée national Gustave Moreau is an art museum dedicated to the works of the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau (1826-1898).
The museum was originally Moreau’s dwelling, transformed by his 1895 decision into a studio and museum of his work with his apartment remaining on the first floor.
- Musée Rodin | 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007
The Musée Rodin is a museum that was opened in 1919, dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Built as a hôtel particulier between 1727-1737, the Hôtel Biron was home to many aristocrats and artists before Rodin moved in in 1908.
The Museum has two sites, at the Hôtel Biron and surrounding grounds in central Paris, and just outside Paris at Rodin’s old home, the Villa des Brillants at Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine). While living in the Villa des Brillants, Rodin used the Hôtel Biron as his workshop from 1908, and subsequently donated his entire collection of sculptures to the French State.
- Musée Zadkine | 100 bis Rue d’Assas, 75006
Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967) was a Russian modernist sculptor who immigrated to Paris in 1909 to study at L’École des Beaux-Arts. He moved to the house on rue d’Assas in 1929 and made it his studio. His wife turned it into a museum in 1978 according to his wishes.
MY FAVOURITE CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERIES & STUDIOS
- A walk in Rue Bonaparte e Rue du Seine | All the way Rue Bonaparte & Rue du Seine, 75006
Rue Bonaparte is a long street in the 6th arrondissement of Paris that leads from the Seine riverside – by crossing the entrance of the École Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts – to le Jardin de Luxembourg, across a nice walk amongst the most prestigious Parisian galleries.
At the beginning of the road, at number 2, lies Bettina Von Arnim Art Gallery & Library which is a place that blends art and literature, in an interesting modern space where it is possible to be amazed by wonderful photographic exibitions.
Continuing on the same street you can find Laurence Esnol Gallery – in the two locations at number 7 and 22 – which is one of my favorite, especially for the artists represented (H.Craig Hanna just to give a name!), and for the exhibitions – sometimes even photographic ones – always very interesting.
Rue de Seine is another street, parallel to Rue Bonaparte, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. This street and surrounding area are host to the highest concentration of art galleries and antique dealers in the world. Taking a walk here is worthy even just to take a look at the storefronts.
Galerie Georges-Philippe and Nathalie Vallois – an important art gallery specialized in Contemporary and Nouveau Realism Art located at 33 and 36 of this road – is particularly worthy of note.
- 59 Rivoli – Maison des Artistes | 59 di Rue de Rivoli, 75001
The 59 Rivoli is a building right in the heart of Paris where there are more then thirty artist’s studios. In the beginning, it was a squat that was started by artists looking for a place to work, live and show. It’s now legalized and still open to the public who can come through and visit the artists. There are 20 Permanent Artists & 10 Resident Artists who have a studio for 3 to 6 months; you can visit this place everyday for free and a reservation is not necessary. Unlike a gallery, 59 Rivoli allows you to truly enter into an artist’s working place.
- La Ruche | 2 Passage de Dantzig, 75015
Located in the 15th arrondissement, La Ruche is an artist’s residence in Montparnasse, a quarter of Paris. Originally a temporary building designed by Gustave Eiffel as a wine rotunda at the Great Exposition of 1900, the structure was dismantled and re-erected as low-cost studios for artists by Alfred Boucher (1850–1934), a fireman and sculptor, who wanted to help young artists by providing them with shared models and with an exhibition space open to all residents.
During the 20th century, famous artists like Guillaume Apollinaire, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall, Max Jacob, Chaim Soutine, Robert Delaunay, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, and many others, worked in those studios.
La Ruche still exists as a collection of working studios and, even if today is not accessible to visitors, the building still deserves a look from outside.
PORTES OUVERTES – VISITE GRATUITE DES ATELIERS D’ARTISTES
During the year there are several occasions to visit atelier of artists who open their own spaces to the public thus enabling us to discover many fascinating private places which are normally closed. Painters, sculptors, other artists and artisans who work in Paris draw a program, updated annually, in order to promote their work by opening the doors of their own creative spaces. Here all the information, schedule and dates.
- Ateliers d’artistes de Belleville | 1 rue Francis Picabia – 75020 Paris
- Les Ateliers de Ménilmontant – Galerie Le 26 | 26 rue de la Mare, Paris, 75020
- Les Ateliers du Père Lachaise associés | 77 rue de Bagnolet, Paris, 75020
- Ateliers d’Artistes – Les Frigo | 19 rue des Frigos, Paris, 75013
- Montmartre aux Artistes | 189 rue Ordener, Paris, 75018
- Le Viaduc des Arts | 1-129 avenue Daumesnil, Paris, 75012
FINE ART SCHOOLS – WHERE YOU CAN ATTEND LIFE-DRAWING CLASSES & THEORETICAL ART STUDY COURSES
- L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière | 14 Rue de la Grande Chaumière, 75006
The school was founded in 1904 by the Catalan painter Claudio Castelucho and then it was directed from 1909 by the painters Martha Stettler, Alice Dannenberg and Lucien Simon.
The Academie de la Grande Chaumière has been the only institution at the beginning of the 20 th century that has paved the way for Independent Art; it did not teach the strict academic rules of painting of the École des Beaux-Arts, and led to art that was free from academic constraints.
Today, the spirit of creative freedom has remained intact and the Académie still operates under its original name, providing workshops for painting and drawing, sketching with a life model, as well as evening classes.
It is also possible to attend single lessons at a very low price in order to dive into an environment preserving an antique charm.
* Just out of curiosity: Paul Gauguin resided at the number 8 of rue de la Grande-Chaumière, when he returned from Tahiti in 1893. Later on, between 1917 and 1920, the same place became Atelier and apartment of Amedeo Modigliani and her partner Jeanne Hébuterne.
- École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts | 14 Rue Bonaparte, 75006
L’École des beaux-arts is one of the most famous and prestigious academies of the world where you can study Art.
The school was founded more than 350 years and many of the greatest European old masters, such as Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, Henri Matisse, Georges Seurat and many more personalities studied and taught in this institution.
Even today, the Art courses in this Academy are the best you can attend. By paying a one-time budget, you can also attend to the theory courses as auditors by contacting directly the Registrar’s Office.
WHERE YOU CAN FIND DRAWING & PAINTING TOOLS FOR ARTISTS – MY FAVORITE SHOPS
One of the first times I went in Paris I was astonished by the amount of shops available anywhere in the city, where you can buy every kind of tools and equipments for the arts. I asked my father the addresses of the shops where he usually went to buy pencils and paintbrushes more than forty years ago, when he was just a young art student at the Academy of Fine Art.
To my surprise I found all the shops still in business and well-stocked of all kind of materials, exactly where he said.
During the years I have visited many of these shops even just to smell the linseed oil perfume, or just to take a quick look to the drawing papers or the beautiful sketchbooks.
Here are the names of some of my favorite shops and French brands in Paris:
- Charbonnel Paris | 13 Quai de Montebello, 75005
Charbonnel is a very famous French brand giving its name to a line of materials. It was founded in 1862 and it is one of the historical fine arts shops in Paris.
Manet, Degas and Renoir became clients, while the beautiful “affiches” Toulouse Lautrec designed were printed with Charbonnel inks. In fact, the shop is still specialized in etching, linocut and other woodblock inks. They also have an impressive selection of beautiful papers and the shop is so beautiful that it deserves a visit, even if you don’t need to buy anything.
- Magasin Sennelier Frères | 3 di Quai Voltaire 75007 & 4 Bis, Rue de la Grande Chaumiere, 75006Founded in 1887 and based in n. 3 Quai Voltaire 75007, it is well equipped with everything you may need and especially with their very famous brand products.
Here, amongst the watercolors, gouaches, oils, oil and soft pastels, oil sticks and acrylics you can find any kind of brush, even the rarest and most precious ones. But the shop is worth even just a look to feel the fascination of a place which seems to have remained intact in time.
In 1936 another shop was open near the Ecole de la Grande Chaumiere a Montparnasse, in the wake of the artistic movement which has always characterized this quarter of Paris.
- Charvin – Manufacture de Couleurs | 57 quai des Grands Augustins 75006
Charvin is a French brand which was established in the French Riviera in 1830. The shop is not one of the oldest but it is one of the best and best-equipped ones of its kind in Paris. The range of colors will amaze you as soon as you enter the shop. You will find practically everything here, with an interesting price/quality ratio.
- Gibert Jeune | 5 place Saint Michel, 75005
Gibert Jeune is a bookshop which was founded in 1886 by Joseph Gibert at quai Saint-Michel.
It sells and buys every kind of books (artbooks, too!) and it has become an important chain with a dozen shops only in Paris.
In some of the shops – like the one in Saint Michel and other well-stocked ones – there is also a wide stationery department where you can find sketchbooks, watercolor paper, nice folders to keep sheets together, copybooks and similar at very convenient prices.