This is not the first time I talk about Lapin Agile (see previous post), but as I recently had the privilege to listen to the present owner, the now 80-some-years old Yves Mathieu, during some two or three hours tell us the story about the place, I thought I must make another post. I was invited together with other members of “Le Vieux Montmartre”.
This famous Montmartre cabaret was in the mid of the 19th century referred to as the “Cabaret des Assasins”, later “Ma Campagne”. In 1875, the artist André Gill painted a rabbit which jumped out of its saucepan, which later gave the place its new name; playing with words - “le Lapin à Gill” became “Lapin Agile”, the Nimble Rabbit. The painting on the façade is a copy, the original can be found in the Montmartre Museum (see previous posts, e.g. here and here).
So we were sitting in the old little cabaret, which is still open every night (except Mondays) from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. (see their site), listening the a number of fascinating stories, sitting on wooden benches, surrounded by tens of paintings and drawings (and a Christ) made by different artists who have been more or less regular visitors over the years.
One of the paintings on the wall is a copy of Picasso’s “At the Lapin Agile”. The original was hanging here between 1905 and 1912, when it was sold for 20 $. The original is today at the MMA in New York. It represents Picasso himself, a model (Germaine Pichot) and in the background the cabaret “manager”, Frederic Gerard, “Frédé”, playing the guitar. Already in 1904, Picasso had made the portrait of Frédé’s stepdaughter Margot, today known as “Woman with a Crow” (Toledo Museum of Art).
During Frédé’s time, the place was owned by Aristide Bruant, famous then and still today, especially thanks to different posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec. Bruant sold it to the son of Frédé, Paulo, of which the present owner, Yves Mathieu, our host, is the stepson.
Lapin Agile was (and still is) a meeting place for a number of artists. The bearded Frédé played the cello or the guitar and everybody – Picasso, Modigliani, Utrillo, Braque, Apolinaire, Max Jacob… participated by singing, reading poems…
Frédé, Père Frédé, had a donkey, known as Lolo, which also became famous in 1910 when its tail was used as a brush for a painting presented at the Salon des Independants under the name “Et le soleil se coucha sur l’Adriatique”, where it got very good critics.
I will not make a list of all later famous artists who have performed, even started their careers, here - a lot of French ones (Nougaro, Brassens…), but also some classical music ones like Sviatoslav Richter, who later returned regularly ….
… like the couple Alexandre Lagoya / Ida Presti who, young, even lived here .
The guestbook is impressive. Here are just some examples: Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Leontyne Price, Foujita, Fernand Léger, Vlaminck, Eleanor Roosevelt, Edward G. Robinson...