In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art

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9780143108122: In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art
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A lively and deeply researched group biography of the vibrant figures who invented modernist art in bohemian Paris at the dawn of the twentieth century
 
When the young Pablo Picasso first arrived in Paris in 1900, the most progressive young artists all lived and worked in the seedy hillside quarter of Montmartre, in the shade of the old windmills. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafés, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joined the likes of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more in revolutionizing artistic expression.
 
Blending exceptional scholarship with graceful prose, Sue Roe paints a remarkable group portrait of the men and women who profoundly changed the arts of painting, sculpture, dance, music, literature, and fashion. She describes the origins of such movements as Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism, and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse. She shows how daily life in Montmartre—which brought artists together with acrobats and dancers, prostitutes and clowns—provided an essential cauldron for artistic experimentation and for the colorful relationships, friendships, loyalties, and feuds that gave rise to some of the most pathbreaking and lasting works of the twentieth century.
 
In Montmartre is a thrilling account of an extraordinary group of artists on the cusp of fame and immortality that brings vividly to life one of the key moments in the history of modern art.
 
Praise for In Montmartre:
“A lively and concise account . . . [Roe is] very good at synthesizing and distilling complicated art movements and ideas without getting bogged down in technical details or jargon. And she offers up plenty of juicy tidbits about the artists’ love affairs, infidelities, opium parties, and eccentric habits. . . . Roe’s book is a great introduction to one of the most pivotal periods in 20th century art. Even those familiar with the era will likely find that it broadens their understanding of key players and events.” —Associated Press

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About the Author:

Sue Roe is the author of several books, including a New York Times bestselling collective biography of the Impressionists and a widely praised work on the artist Gwen John. She lives in Brighton, England.

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List of Illustrations

1. L’Attente (Margot), 1901 (oil on canvas), Pablo Picasso/Museo Picasso, Barcelona, Spain/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library

2. Portrait of a woman at the Rat Mort, c.1905–6 (oil on board), Maurice de Vlaminck/Private Collection/Photo © Christie’s Images/The Bridgeman Art Library

3. Au Lapin Agile, c.1904–5 (oil on canvas), Pablo Picasso/Private Collection/Photo © Boltin Picture Library/The Bridgeman Art Library

4. The Artist’s Wife in an Armchair, c.1878–88 (oil on canvas), Paul Cézanne/Bührle Collection, Zurich, Switzerland/The Bridgeman Art Library

5. La Joie de vivre, 1905/6 (oil on canvas), Henri Matisse/The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA/© 2014 Succession H. Matisse/DACS, London. Digital image: The Bridgeman Art Library

6. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 (oil on canvas), Pablo Picasso/Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library

7. The Bathers, 1907 (oil on canvas), André Derain/Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA/The Bridgeman Art Library

8. Caryatid, 1911 (pastel on paper), Amedeo Modigliani/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library

9. Paris, Montmartre (18th arrondissement). View of the Scrub, c.1900. Roger-Viollet/TopFoto

10. Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), 1904 (b/w photo), French photographer, 20th century/Musée de Montmartre, Paris, France/Archives Charmet/The Bridgeman Art Library

11. Henri Matisse (1869–1954). The Granger Collection/TopFoto

12. Gertrude Stein with Alice B. Toklas. The Granger Collection, New York/TopFoto

13. Gertrude Stein in her living room with her portrait by Picasso, 1946 (gelatin silver print), André Ostier/Private Collection/Photo © Christie’s Images/The Bridgeman Art Library

14. Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920). The Granger Collection/TopFoto

15. Paul Poiret (1879–1944). The Granger Collection, New York/TopFoto

16. Paris, Montmartre (18th arrondissement). The cabaret Lapin Agile, c.1900. Roger-Viollet/TopFoto

17. The Moulin de la Galette, Paris. Alinari/TopFoto

18. Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) with her brothers Leo (left) and Michael. Photographed in the courtyard of 27, rue de Fleurus, Paris, c.1906. The Granger Collection/TopFoto

19. Sergei Diaghilev (1872–1929). Roger-Viollet/TopFoto

20. The Bateau-Lavoir, Montmartre, Paris. Roger-Viollet/TopFoto

21. Georges Braque. © Ullsteinbild/TopFoto

22. Paris, Montmartre (18th arrondissement). The rue Saint-Vincent on the level of the cabaret Lapin Agile, c.1900. © Roger-Viollet/TopFoto

Introduction

Inside the glowing-red simulated windmill, the girls danced the cancan to Offenbach’s deafening music, tossing their heads, their petticoats raised in a froth of white as they kicked their legs, revealing tantalizing glimpses of black and scarlet. They performed on the dance floor, mingling with the punters – aristocrats, celebrities, artists, boulevardiers and strangers; in those days there was no raised platform in the Moulin Rouge. In the daytime, on a stage rigged up in the gardens outside, there were open-air performances of singing and dancing, including makeshift ballets danced by the young Montmartroises everyone still called the ‘little rats’. To the side of the stage stood a model elephant, an incongruous exhibit left over from the 1889 World Fair, which housed the orchestra. It was at night, however, that the place really came into its own.

When the young Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris in October 1900 he made his way up the hillside of Montmartre to the lodgings he was borrowing from another Catalan artist before heading down to investigate the nightlife. At first, he was dismayed by the Moulin Rouge, finding it tinselly and expensive in comparison with the all-male taverns of Barcelona. He had been expecting artistic bohemia, not cavorting women. His Catalan friends, habitués of Montmartre, usually gathered at the top of the hillside, around the place du Tertre, preferring the shady, cramped little bars where they could drink and talk until dawn. Up there, in the heights of Montmartre, Picasso discovered the other, less outrageous popular dance hall, the old Moulin de la Galette, a real converted windmill where the neighbourhood girls and their beaux still danced into the small hours, as they had in Renoir’s day. Here, artists such as Henri Matisse and the Dutch painter Kees van Dongen (whose portraits of women with elongated limbs, monocles and short haircuts would later earn him a central place among modernist artists) went to sketch the dancers. Nevertheless, it was not long before Picasso succumbed to the allure of the cabarets at the foot of the Butte, where prostitutes spilled out into the streets, strolling along the boulevards. They were among his first Parisian subjects.

A Spaniard, Joseph Oller, had created the Moulin Rouge on the site of the old Reine Blanche. Ingeniously, he constructed it in the shape of a windmill (competition for the old place at the top of the hillside), with eye-catching sails and red electric lighting, opening it under its new name in 1889. He commissioned a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec for the foyer and poached the dancers with the best legs from the Élysée Montmartre. From the day it opened the red ‘windmill’ became Montmartre’s most popular attraction, even in summertime; when Parisians left the city for their country retreats, visitors came in from all over the world, gravitating towards Montmartre in search of cheap cabaret entertainment and lively nightlife. Behind the scenes, the Moulin Rouge traded prostitutes, but the visitors (and their wives) who patronized it saw only the surface gaiety and glamour of the place, enjoying the atmosphere of risqué sensuality without taking any real risk.

As for the performers, they were unforgettable. La Goulue (‘Queen of the French Cancan’) belted out songs celebrating the low life of Montmartre. Her replacement, Jane Avril, had been treated for hysteria by neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot in his clinic at the Salpêtrière mental hospital before dancing in nightclubs on the Left Bank. She later grew bored of these and came to Montmartre, where she shook off her inhibitions in the Moulin Rouge, spindly legs flying in all directions. She was not interested in material things, she once said, only in l’amour.

The poor, the displaced, those who had known destitution, deprivation and suffering, seemed to find a natural home for their talents in Montmartre; the district was already suffused with its own distinctive melancholy. Higher up the hillside – up the narrow steps, past the small, tree-lined squares – windmills still stood among the gardens and vineyards that covered the steep slopes. Though they no longer milled flour, it was to these that the Butte owed its distinctive, fragile beauty, immortalized in the sketches of van Gogh, who briefly lived there during the 1880s and painted the view from his attic window in shades of greyish blue.

In later years, Picasso looked back with nostalgia on Montmartre, where he lived out the formative years of his career and established the emotional foundations of his work. ‘My inner self,’ he once said, ‘is bound to be in my canvas, since I’m the one doing it . . . Whatever I do, it’ll be there. In fact, there’ll be too much of it. It’s all the rest that’s the problem!’ The ten years following his arrival in Paris, he painted the world of Montmartre, seen through the prism of his inner life, responding, too, to the emotions and ideas of those who converged on the place during the first decade of the twentieth century – Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, van Dongen, Modigliani, couturier Paul Poiret and writer Gertrude Stein – each of whom became his friend. They were all inspired by the world of Montmartre, responding to the mood of artistic self-consciousness which had replaced the decadence of the Belle Époque and came to characterize the modern age. ‘All the rest’ – the plethora of challenges set by the changing social climate, their awareness of the art of the past, the technical demands presented by their rapidly emerging ideas – would increasingly make claims on them.

 · · · 

During the first decade of the twentieth century, art, as well as entertainment, was profoundly influenced by travellers and outsiders. Artists from Spain, Italy, Russia and America converged on Montmartre, providing entertainment, inspiration and fresh social interaction. Newcomers to the artistic scene were brought together by an unlikely nexus of brilliant talents – including Gertrude Stein, Paul Poiret and art dealer Ambroise Vollard – and the decade saw the formation of a new avant-garde. In the village environment at the top of the hillside, in muddy lanes and broken-down shacks, inspired by the circus and silent movies, close to the locals still dancing the night away in the old Moulin de la Galette, the leading artists of the twentieth century spent their early years living among acrobats, dancers, prostitutes and clowns. Their spontaneity, libertine lifestyles and love of popular culture contributed to the bohemian ambience of haute Montmartre and to the development of path-breaking ideas. By the end of the decade Matisse was exhibiting his dynamic works La Danse and La Musique, Picasso had shocked his friends with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Poiret was dressing le tout Paris in garments inspired by the costumes worn by the performers in the Ballets Russes production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and every gallery in Paris was showing cubist art. How did all this come about?

The decade saw the emergence of major artistic discoveries as well as significant social change. In the years following the end of the Belle Époque, young artists weary of decadence and satire were already looking for new subjects and novel, more rigorous methods of painting which reflected their feelings about their lives. As an incomer, Picasso was fascinated by what he saw around him – itinerant circus performers and acrobats, streetwalkers and the day-to-day life of those who lived in the shanty town that was the northern flank of Montmartre. At the foot of the Butte dramatic shifts were beginning to take place in the world of entertainment. During the years immediately following 1900, cinema took over from the circus as a major recreational diversion, and its progression from circus venues to designated spaces and the transition from the earliest silent movies to motion pictures with narrative, featuring popular screen stars, were also profoundly influential; the artists who gathered in Montmartre modelled themselves, for fun, on film stars and comic-book heroes.

In retrospect, it seems that, if the Impressionists had sought to capture on canvas a moment in time, the natural world en passant, by contrast, in Montmartre between 1900 and 1910, there was a spirit of iconoclasm at work. With the rise of photography as an artistic medium, the painters’ previous ambition of imitating life in art now belonged to photographers and, increasingly, cinematographers. The aim of painting was now to find ways of expressing the painter’s own response to life, vividly demonstrated by the early work of Derain, Vlaminck and van Dongen, whose vigorous forms and bold colours would earn them the nickname ‘les Fauves’ (‘wild beasts’). With this decade, which witnessed searches for originality and artistic impersonality, came – paradoxically – vibrant personalities. New relationships suddenly seemed possible, between artists and their patrons, their dealers, their lovers – and among the artists themselves. Those who gathered in Montmartre just after the turn of the century soon became competitive and sometimes combative, falling regularly in and out with one other, discovering, exchanging and strategically guarding original ideas. They sought personal freedom and innovative creative directions, yet they were not without nostalgia. In the ‘cabaret artistique’ at the top of the Butte, everyone sang the songs of the 1830s, accompanied by Frédé, the proprietor (who sold fish, and the odd painting, from a cart in the daytime), on his guitar. The red-shaded lamps and rough red wine reminded the Catalan artists of home. More significantly, in forming new methods and ideas, the artists also drew on the art of the past – El Greco, the Italian primitives and the classical art of ancient Greece. When African and Indonesian masks and carvings began to appear in Paris, the excitement they caused was heady, and lasting.

As the decade unfolded, artists continued to spur one another on, forming allegiances, making discoveries, sparring and changing sides. Derain and Vlaminck, still painting together in Chatou, a suburb of Paris, in 1900, began to follow Matisse; by 1910, the ideas they were calling into question were Picasso’s. Braque was a friend of Marie Laurencin (the only female painter in their circle) before he began working closely with Picasso – who loathed her. Paul Poiret, the first couturier to treat fashion as an art form and to compare himself with the painters of his circle, knew Derain and Vlaminck from the early days, when all three lived by the Seine in Chatou; within a few years, the designer was throwing huge parties, inviting Picasso and his friends to gatherings on the colossal houseboat he kept moored on the river. Gertrude Stein sat for Picasso ninety times (or so she claimed) in the beaten-up Bateau-Lavoir, making her way every week from the Left Bank to Montmartre. Intrigued and inspired by Picasso, she began giving her famous soirées; then the artists came to her. Against the backdrop of continual discussion in the cafés and bars of Montmartre, the subtle almost-feud between Matisse and Picasso played itself out in continual stand-offs and rapprochements as the world of artistic Paris evolved – as Alice B. Toklas once put it – ‘like a kaleidoscope slowly turning’. By the end of the decade, the Futurists were launching their plangent appeal for aggressive action, announcing ‘a new beauty: the beauty of speed’, calling for the radical renovation of techniques of painting and denouncing all forms of imitation. In Montmartre, much of what they dreamed of was already happening.

The years that saw the birth of modern art in Paris were those directly following the turn of the century, before the Great War. By 1910, Paris had become a hive of creative activity in which all the arts seemed to be happening in concert. The cross-fertilization of painting, writing, music and dance produced a panorama of activity characterized by the early works of Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck and Modigliani, the appearance of the Ballets Russes and the salons of Gertrude Stein. The real revolution in the arts first took place not, as is commonly supposed, in the 1920s, to the accompaniment of the Charleston, black jazz and mint juleps, but more quietly and intimately, in the shadow of the windmills – artificial and real – and in the cafés and cabarets of Montmartre during the first decade of the twentieth century. The unknown artists who gathered there and lived closely overlapping lives are now household names. This book tells their story.

PART I

The World Fair and Arriva...

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Book Description Penguin Books, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A lively and deeply researched group biography of the vibrant figures who invented modernist art in bohemian Paris at the dawn of the twentieth century When the young Pablo Picasso first arrived in Paris in 1900, the most progressive young artists all lived and worked in the seedy hillside quarter of Montmartre, in the shade of the old windmills. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafes, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joined the likes of Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more in revolutionizing artistic expression. Blending exceptional scholarship with graceful prose, Sue Roe paints a remarkable group portrait of the men and women who profoundly changed the arts of painting, sculpture, dance, music, literature, and fashion. She describes the origins of such movements as Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism, and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse. She shows how daily life in Montmartre--which brought artists together with acrobats and dancers, prostitutes and clowns--provided an essential cauldron for artistic experimentation and for the colorful relationships, friendships, loyalties, and feuds that gave rise to some of the most pathbreaking and lasting works of the twentieth century. In Montmartre is a thrilling account of an extraordinary group of artists on the cusp of fame and immortality that brings vividly to life one of the key moments in the history of modern art. Praise for In Montmartre A lively and concise account . . . [Roe is] very good at synthesizing and distilling complicated art movements and ideas without getting bogged down in technical details or jargon. And she offers up plenty of juicy tidbits about the artists love affairs, infidelities, opium parties, and eccentric habits. . . . Roe s book is a great introduction to one of the most pivotal periods in 20th century art. Even those familiar with the era will likely find that it broadens their understanding of key players and events. --Associated Press. Seller Inventory # ABZ9780143108122

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Book Description Penguin Books, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A lively and deeply researched group biography of the vibrant figures who invented modernist art in bohemian Paris at the dawn of the twentieth century When the young Pablo Picasso first arrived in Paris in 1900, the most progressive young artists all lived and worked in the seedy hillside quarter of Montmartre, in the shade of the old windmills. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafes, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joined the likes of Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more in revolutionizing artistic expression. Blending exceptional scholarship with graceful prose, Sue Roe paints a remarkable group portrait of the men and women who profoundly changed the arts of painting, sculpture, dance, music, literature, and fashion. She describes the origins of such movements as Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism, and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse. She shows how daily life in Montmartre--which brought artists together with acrobats and dancers, prostitutes and clowns--provided an essential cauldron for artistic experimentation and for the colorful relationships, friendships, loyalties, and feuds that gave rise to some of the most pathbreaking and lasting works of the twentieth century. In Montmartre is a thrilling account of an extraordinary group of artists on the cusp of fame and immortality that brings vividly to life one of the key moments in the history of modern art. Praise for In Montmartre A lively and concise account . . . [Roe is] very good at synthesizing and distilling complicated art movements and ideas without getting bogged down in technical details or jargon. And she offers up plenty of juicy tidbits about the artists love affairs, infidelities, opium parties, and eccentric habits. . . . Roe s book is a great introduction to one of the most pivotal periods in 20th century art. Even those familiar with the era will likely find that it broadens their understanding of key players and events. --Associated Press. Seller Inventory # ABZ9780143108122

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Book Description Penguin Books. Paperback. Condition: New. 384 pages. A lively and deeply researched group biography of the vibrant figures who invented modernist art in bohemian Paris at the dawn of the twentieth century When the young Pablo Picasso first arrived in Paris in 1900, the most progressive young artists all lived and worked in the seedy hillside quarter of Montmartre, in the shade of the old windmills. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafs, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joined the likes of HenriMatisse, AndrDerain, MauricedeVlaminck, GeorgesBraque, AmedeoModigliani, ConstantinBrancusi, GertrudeStein, and many more in revolutionizing artistic expression. Blending exceptional scholarship with graceful prose, Sue Roe paints a remarkable group portrait of the men and women who profoundly changed the arts of painting, sculpture, dance, music, literature, and fashion. She describes the origins of such movements as Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism, and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse. She shows how daily life in Montmartrewhich brought artists together with acrobats and dancers, prostitutes and clownsprovided an essential cauldron for artistic experimentation and for the colorful relationships, friendships, loyalties, and feuds that gave rise to some of the most pathbreaking and lasting works of the twentieth century. In Montmartre is a thrilling account of an extraordinary group of artists on the cusp of fame and immortality that brings vividly to life one of the key moments in the history of modern art. Praise for In Montmartre: A lively and concise account . . . Roe is very good at synthesizing and distilling complicated art movements and ideas without getting bogged down in technical details or jargon. And she offers up plenty of juicy tidbits about the artists love affairs, infidelities, opium parties, and eccentric habits. . . . Roes book is a great introduction to one of the most pivotal periods in 20th century art. Even those familiar with the era will likely find that it broadens their understanding of key players and events. Associated Press This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780143108122

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