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Bateau Lavoir

Page history last edited by Thomas Kutzli 2 years, 3 months ago




Situated on Montmartre hill, today just the genius loci is to be felt....

Underneath the place and the buildings around, were huge caverns from ancient plaster mines, that's why all the buildings around are small and "light".... literally swimming :-)


"Constructed as a piano factory, around 1880 it was sub-divided into artist's ateliers and lodgings. According to the city plaque outside, Max Jacob christened the building 'Bateau-Lavoir' in 1889.

Inside it resembled an ocean liner, and it possessed only one water tap. Cubism was born in this building; Renoir lived here in 1885 and painted the 'Danse à la Ville' and 'Danse à la Campagne.' Suzanne Valadon worked as his model. Max Jacob moved in around 1902, Juan Gris was here from 1906 to 1922, Kees Van Dongen in 1906-7, Amedeo Modigliani in 1908, and Otto Friedlich from 1909 to 1911.

Other tenants were Guillaume Appolinaire, André Salmon, André Salmon, Vlaminck, Braque, Dufy, and Pablo Picasso - for the first time - in 1904. Another nickname for the place was 'Villa Médicis de la Peinture Moderne.' Most of the artists moved out at the beginning of the war. The building burned down on 12. May 1970.

Today there is a modest shop-front with the name 'Bateau-Lavoir.' There is a modest window display, with faded black and white photographs. Pablo is very young in one of them. He lived a long time after the Bateau-Lavoir went into history. It is dark in the place Emile-Goudeau. A few people walk through it, a few stop to look in the window for a few moments."

(by Richard Erickson)


Fernande Olivier, l'amie de Picasso le décrira: "le 'bateau' abrita des peintres, des sculpteurs, des littérateurs, des humoristes, des acteurs, des blanchisseuses, des couturières et des marchandes des quatre saisons. Glacière l'hiver, étuve l'été, les locataires s'y rencontraient à l'unique fontaine, un broc à la main."

In her book "The autobiography of Alice B.Toklas" Gertrude Stein describes some things about the Bâteau Lavoir (she posed there for Picasso):

"Then there was the first time of posing. ... In those days there was even more disorder, more coming and going, more red hot fire in the stove, more cooking and more interruptions. There was a large broken armchair where Gertrude Stein posed. There was a couch where everybody sat and slept. There was a little kitchen chair upon which Picasso sat to paint, there was a large easel and there were many very large canvases. It was at the height of the end of the Harlequin period when the canvases were enormous, the figures also, and the groups.

There was a little fox terrier there that had something the matter with it and had been and was again about to be taken to the veterinary. No frenchman and no frenchwoman is so poor or so careless or so avaricious but that they can and do constantly take their pet to the vet.

Fernande was as always, very large, very beautiful and very gracious. She offered to read La Fontaine's stories aloud to amuse Gertrude Stein while Gertrude Stein posed. She took her pose, Picasso sat very tight on his chair and very close to his canvas and on very small palette which was of an uniform brown grey colour, mixed some more brown grey and the painting began. This was the first of some eighty ore ninety sittings."


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