Paris — By Christina Uticone on January 31, 2011 at 12:08 pm
Filed under: Art, museums, sightseeing, top-feature

Montmartre, Paris: A History of the Arts

My trip to Paris was enriched by my visit to the slightly-off-the-beaten path neighborhood called Montmartre, once the home of – and the daily inspiration for – artists such as Salvadore Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Maurice Utrillo, Henri de Toulouse-Latrec and Claude Monet. To view the works of these artists at the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay (and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam before we reached Paris) one day, and then to walk the streets where they lived and worked the next was truly exciting. What an incredible opportunity it was to connect the museum experience of viewing the art to the setting where these artists actually lived their daily lives.

In addition to its roots in 19th and 20th century art, the Montmarte district is also home to a thriving nightlife. Its red-light district is frequently compared to its more famous Dutch counterpart in Amsterdam.

Montemartre: Art History

"The Profile of Time" by Salvadore Dali at Espace Dali, Paris, France.

In the mid-1800s and early 1900s Montmartre was the center of bohemian Parisian life; the place where artists, writers, entertainers and intellectuals spent their time. You can see the Montmartre of the time in the cabaret and café scenes painted by Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Latrec. Sit at a café and enjoy a glass of wine or a café au lait while you people watch, or perhaps record the scene in your sketchbook or journal. Read my 7 Tips for Travelers for the scoop on enjoying Paris’s cafe culture.

Montmartre has several museums worth visiting. More intimate (and less intimidating!) than their more famous counterparts along the Seine, these Montmartre stops are less overwhelming in terms of size. As much fun as I had at the Louvre, at no point during my eight-hour visit did I feel that it was “doable”; in that sense I was constantly overwhelmed with the experience. A visit to one of these Montmartre museums is more relaxing, and the perfect choice if you don’t want to spend an entire day in one place.

Musée de Montmartre

The Musée de Montmartre focuses on the cultural history of the district in which it is located. In addition to the permanent collection of photos, paintings, and other documents that illuminate the cultural history of Montmartre, the museum also has a rotation of temporary, visiting exhibits. The museum’s temporary exhibits are also focused on local art, history, and artists. Several famous artists once resided in the buildings that now make up the museum, including Maurice Utrillo, August Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh. Don’t miss the collection of Henri du Loutrouse-Lautrec posters.

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Located at 12 Rue Cortot (map) it is open every day except Monday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is 8€. If you are taking the Paris Metro use the Lamarck Caulaincourt station on line 12.

Espace Dali

Salvadore Dali fans won’t want to miss this museum that is completely dedicated to his work. The permanent exhibit includes paintings, sculpture and lithographs; more than 300 works are on display here. Temporary exhibits dedicated to the artist’s work are also occasionally on display.

Located at 11 Rue Poulbot (map) Espace Dali is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is 10€. If you are taking the Metro use the Abbesses station on line 12.

Musée d’Art Naif (or Musée d’Art Brut & Singulier)

It’s a bit hard to describe the art you will find at the Musée d’Art Naif (naive art). The museum was established by Max Fourny in 1986 on the site of a former market (built in 1868). In addition to the museum’s permanent exhibit, temporary exhibits of folk art, naive art and “outsider art” are also rotated through the gallery. “Art brut” – or raw art – is the focus of this unusual museum. If you’re up for having your ideas about art challenged, this is the museum for you.

The Musée d’Art Naif is located in the Halle Saint Pierre at 2 Rue Ronsard (map). The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In August the museum closes on weekends and doesn’t open on weekdays until noon. Musée d’Art Naif is also closed on December 25, January 1, May 1, July 14 and August 15. Admission is 7,50€. If you are taking the Metro use the Anvers or Abbesses stations.

Up in Lights: The famous Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris, France.

Montmartre: An Artistic Tradition Continued

Don’t limit your Montmartre art experience to finished works hanging on museum walls. Visit Place du Tertre (map), just a few blocks away from Sacré Coeur, and watch working artists as they paint in the open air. You can purchase souvenirs directly from the artists as they work.

A visit to the Pigalle red-light district borders the 9th and 18th arrondissements of Paris and offers a distinctly adult form of artistic expression; this is Paris’s red-light district, complete with sex shops and prostitution. Pigalle is also where the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret (map) is located. Pigalle is known for its focus on music, and many music shops, instrument shops and concert halls focusing on rock-n-roll are found here. Bring your sense of adventure – and your sense of humor – and enjoy this adult-only section of Paris.

Montmartre in Film

You may have already toured Montmarte without realizing it. The 18th arrondissement has been used as the backdrop of many films over the years. When you visit see if you can recognize some of these places from your favorite movies:

  • Amélie (2001): This French film helped launch French actress Audrey Tatou to world-wide recognition. The movie is set in modern-day Montmartre, with Tatou’s title character working at real-life Café des Deux Moulins  at 15 rue Lepic (map).
  • Moulin Rouge (1952): John Huston’s fictional story of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is also set in Montmartre. The film starred cinema royalty: José Ferrer, Colette Marchand and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
  • Moulin Rouge (2001): The modern Moulin Rouge focuses on the lives and loves of the entertainers and patrons of the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Directed by Baz Luhrmann the film stars Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and John Leguizamo (as Toulouse-Lautrec). Both the 1952 and the 2001 versions won Oscars for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
  • La Vie en Rose (2001): This biopic of French singer Édith Piaf stars French film actress Marion Cotillard. Many scenes were not only set, but filmed in Paris.

Image credits: David Monniaux (Place du Tertre); Andreas Praefcke (Moulin Rouge); Florian75018 (Dali).

Related places:
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    Mus%uFFFDe de Montmartre
  2. B
    Espace Dali
  3. C
    Mus%uFFFDe d'Art Na%uFFFDf - Max Fourny
  4. D
    Place du Tertre
    , , , , ,
  5. E
    Moulin Rouge
    82 bd. Clichy, 18e, Paris, France
  6. F
    Paris, FR
Tags: Art, museums, sightseeing, top-feature

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