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In Montmartre [Reading] ➹ In Montmartre By Sue Roe – A lively and deeply researched group biography of the figures who transformed the world of art in bohemian Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century In Montmartre is a colorful history of the A lively and deeply researched group biography of the figures who transformed the world of art in bohemian Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century In Montmartre is a colorful history of the birth of Modernist art as it arose from one of the most astonishing collections of artistic talent ever assembled It begins in October as a teenage Pablo Picasso eager for fame and fortune first makes his way up the hillside of Paris’s famous windmill topped district Over the next decade among the studios salons cafés dance halls and galleries of Montmartre the young Spaniard joins the likes of Henri Matisse André Derain Maurice de Vlaminck Georges Braue Amedeo Modigliani Constantin Brancusi Gertrude Stein and many in revolutionizing artistic expression Sue Roe has blended exceptional scholarship with graceful prose to write this 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 movements like Fauvism Cubism and Futurism and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse Relating the colorful lives and complicated relationships of this dramatic bohemian scene Roe illuminates the excitement of the moment when these bold experiments in artistic representation and performance began to take shape A thrilling account In Montmartre captures an extraordinary group on the cusp of fame and immortality Through their stories Roe brings to life one of the key moments in the history of art Praise for  In Montmartre Lively and engagingReaders will find a fresh sense of how all these people—the geniuses and the hangers on the wealthy collectors and the unworldly painters—related to each otherIn Roe’s entertaining ingeniously structured account Roe brings Montmatre’s hedyday back to life — Sunday Times London   With evocative imagery Roe sketches out the intensely visual spectacle on which Montmatre’s artistic community was able to draw Roe is particularly good at communicating the extraordinary devotion of Matisse and Picasso to their work — Financial Times.

10 thoughts on “In Montmartre

  1. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”It is a wonderful thing how much courage it takes even to buy a clock you are very much liking when it is a kind of one everyone thinks only a servant should be owning It is very wonderful how much courage it takes to buy bright coloured handkerchiefs when everyone having good taste uses white ones or pale coloured ones when a bright coloured one gives you so much pleasure you suffer always at not having them It is very hard to have the courage of your being in you in clocks in handkerchiefs in aspirations in liking things that are low in anything” Gertrude Stein The young Pablo PIcasso circa 1904 photographed by Ricard Canals i LlambiAs I continue to add prints of Modernist and Impressionist painters with a few Da Vinci’s and Vermeer’s to my growing collectionI find it so inspirational to have surrounded myself with such divergent artistic concepts When I look at a Matisse or a Picasso or a Vlaminck or a van Dongen or a Modigliani or a Dali or a Van Gogh their expressions of ideas are so uniue to them that it is as if I’m seeing the world through their eyes I can steal the eyes of a painter at least briefly and even once my eyes have flicked away from the painting the dazzling array of colors can transform my reality into a Matisse or a Picasso masterpiece I decided to paint some of the walls of my house a celery green It is bold Bolder than I expected but maybe there was a part of me as I looked at those color chips that wanted to break loose from the safe color scheme of beiges grays and creams A benefit I hadn’t expected is this color sensuously frames the art on my walls and seems to give each painting depth I also discovered that looking at celery green makes me happy So when I read that uote by Gertrude Stein I thought about my celery green and the reactions I’ve received so far from neighbors and friends who see this dare I say courageous color for the first time and look like they have just bit into a piece of raw rhubarb Americans came to Paris to experience the Montmartre district to see the scandalous shows drink too much flirt with beautiful Parisian girls and hopefully brush shoulders with some of these almost famous celebrity painters These painters are known in certain circles but not known as well as they soon would be These Americans were being shown paintings unlike anything they had ever seen before and for those who could really SEE these paintings they were mesmerized and bought as many as they could afford I can only imagine when they returned to America and unboxed some of these lurid beauties with vivid colors that overwhelmed the eye what reactions they would have received from friends and family Those paintings might even have left some of the viewers with a delicate disposition feeling as if they have been punched in the gut It is interesting to observe the varied reactions that people have to bold colors before we can even discuss say a painting of a woman with three noses Henri Matisse circa 1891 Sue Roe deftly balances all these diverse personalities who came together in Paris at the turn of the century and she shares these wonderful stories that vividly bring them back to life The fashion designer Paul Poiret who was immersed in this dynamic culture shared a story that has stuck with me long after finishing the book ”Many years later Poiret remembered watching Vlaminck and Derain as they trudged along the riverside forced to move out of their lodgings their shared studio presumably when the landlady grew tired of giving them credit ‘I can still see them by the flowery banks’ he reminisced ‘their boxes of colours under their arms their canvases piled in a wheelbarrow’” The book is full of intriguing snapshots daubed in paint These brilliant impoverished painters were just beginning to have an idea that they were part of another renaissance in art Another one of my favorite vignettes is of a clever fussy writer ”Marcel Proust sat uietly at a corner table drinking hot chocolate like a pale green ghost” To think of him out in the Montmartre district observing all that decadent behavior made me smile The women of Montmartre were probably some of the most liberated women on the planet in the early 1900s They were models lovers dancers mistresses and in many ways their emancipation added fuel to the creative energy of the artists writers designers and buyers who flocked to Montmartre to be inspired One of the most alluring of these creatures was Fernande Olivier who caught the eye of many painters but absolutely captivated Pablo Picasso ”Here she was now the beautiful tall redhead She seemed languid aloof voluptuous than the girls he was accustomed to with strong vivid features and a contrasting aura of lightness From now on wherever he went he kept seeing her”The rivalry between Matisse and Picasso was one of those necessary driving forces that makes really great artists keep creating masterpieces They would cringe and look with awe in eual measure whenever they viewed each other’s latest creations Their relationship was cordial honest but sometimes mildly disagreeable As Francoise Gilot muse of PIcasso put it ”‘In their meetings the active side was Pablo; the passive Matisse Pablo always sought to charm Matisse like a dancer but in the end it was Matisse who conuered Pablo’” There are many great artists of this period; one of my favorites is Amedeo Modigliani but without a doubt the names that emerge as champions of the era are Matisse and Picasso I always find reading about artists so inspirational even so than reading about writers I’m not sure why except maybe that there is so much for me to learn about artists I don’t usually pick up overviews like this but Sue Roe does such a wonderful job capturing the place and the people with such precise sketches that I am indebted to her for moving the needle of my understanding of the artists and of this era forward in a leap rather than just a bound If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  2. Bettie Bettie says:

    view spoiler Bettie's Books hide spoiler

  3. Susan Liston Susan Liston says:

    This is a extremely well researched book and there is a ton of information here I'm slightly perplexed as to why I didn't find it compelling reading than I didperhaps it's partly because I just read a biography of Picasso and a lot of this was repetitive maybe it was because of the way the story jumps from artist to artist a bit too much maybe because there are hardly any illustrationseight reproduced paintings and fourteen photos period so I constantly was having to resort to the Internet for visual reinforcementbut it is certainly readable and would be a good place to start learning about this period keep Internet handy

  4. Laura Laura says:

    From BBC Radio 4 Book of the WeekSue Roe's story of Pablo Picasso and other artists in the famous Paris uarter4 In Montmartre Picasso Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art TBR The Private Lives of the Impressionists

  5. Katy Katy says:

    Just as I did not want to leave Montmartre when I visited last August I did not want this book to end I love biographies that are dedicated to place over person to capturing a small group of individuals that come to characterise a place and create an unforgettable atmosphere that reverberates through the years I am a sucker for the story of the starving artist the elite group of dedicated people who suffer for their art living in sualor and burning through personal and professional relationships in the name of vision and creation This book was perfect for me I did not want a minutely detailed account of any of these artists personal lives I did not want to know about their childhoods or the intimate details of all their relationships I was much interested in their stories in the context of Montmartre and the way that life there shaped their art and allowed them to form their artistic identities It was an interesting read for someone who knows Montmartre only as the place dubbed the artist district of Paris My experience was that of one of the many tourists swarming its boulevards over a century after they have all left; I know it only in terms of the residual chaos from the storm they swept up over a hundred years ago Now we largely experience Montmartre as a place of tourism; I could only sit in the Place du Tertre as an awed spectator trying to imagine the artistic freedom that is now almost impossible to experience due to the vast number of bodies wielding selfie sticks Through this biography I loved being given a glimpse of Montmartre as it was when creativity was this raw wild thing that could only be experienced by those willing to truly break themselves down and live in the dirt It is a rare glimpse of something sometime that is impossible to get back due to the celebrity that culminated in the wake of those great artistsI love Montmarte Even now even the version that I experienced There is still an unmistakable artistic energy to be found there and it is my favourite place in the world But next time I go back I can enjoy it all the knowing exactly what happened on those sprawling streets exactly what great art was created behind those closed doors and the role the place itself played as the inspiration for many of the great works of art we are lucky enough to be able to appreciate today

  6. Christine Christine says:

    Book of the Week August 04 Author Sue Roe account abridged by Katrin Williams describes how Pablo Picasso and other artists found this Paris uarter irresistible when arriving in the early 1900'sReader Stella GonetProducer Duncan Minshullview spoiler1 He turns up with his Catalan friend Casagemas during the World Fair and uickly feels at home painting the scene and carousing in such notorious watering holes as the 'Zut'2 Picasso must sell his work to survive and he meets up with some remarkable dealers Also the alluring Fernande his new muse and lover3 Picasso works in the vicinity of other artists such as Derain and Vlaminck And also Matisse The two of them are like chalk and cheese4 Picasso travels with Fernande to Spain which opens the mind to some fantastic possibilities And one particular picture will cause a stir5 Picasso eventually leaves Montmatre for the sedate charms of Clichy Then author Gertrude Stein sums what Montmartre really means to its artists hide spoiler

  7. Mysteryfan Mysteryfan says:

    I was fortunate to receive an ARC for this book In 1900 a teenaged Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris Already there or soon to arrive were Derain Vlaminck Rousseau Leo and Gertrude Stein Paul Poiret Diaghilev and of course Henri Matisse The first decade of the 20th century changed the world for art cinema dance and fashion The author keeps the focus tightly on culture there isn't much mention of political or scientific events I learned a great deal about this remarkable decade and the development of Fauvism Cubism and Modernism She makes a persuasive argument that the development of cinema had an important effect on artists of the period It is well written and interesting

  8. Rachel Rachel says:

    I'm pretty sure Picasso and Matisse's lives were enthralling than this biography attempts to depict

  9. Kirti Upreti Kirti Upreti says:

    This book makes you realise how tumultous were the early decades of the 20th century and yet it was the same time that shaped the modern life The period had the fortune to witness the emergence of some of the greatest minds of all time who not only brought new perspectives but even moved beyond their limitations Picasso wasn't just a painter Art was no restricted to paintings Matisse wasn't trying to make himself understood Derain had his own opinions on what being an artist meant It is a story of some unconventional geniuses gathered together in the streets of Montmartre There was never a dull moment in the story spanning over a decade and a half If you are into modern art and art history then this is a must read for you However familiarising yourself with the works of Matisse and Cubism would help you savour the story better A brief reading of the Art section of the book 'Modernism' by Peter Gay would set you right for the iridescent journey through time

  10. Sam Tornio Sam Tornio says:

    Roe must have been conscious of the fact that the image of a theatre troupe ‘parade’ which she applies metaphorically to fin de siècle Montmartre also describes the multivalent rollicking of the prose she uses in writing about it; which despite its scope and energy—like the cubist weltanschauung she herself calls into uestion—depends a bit too heavily on suggestive juxtapositions and ambiguous lacunae Roe is often less than fully in control of this party making her plethoric narrative less a true opening up of her subjects than a convincing mystification

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