Square Vergennes in the 15th arrondissement is a charming little street…
… and, especially, you will find a museum / art gallery under the name of “Musée Mendjisky – Ecoles de Paris”. Maybe first some words about the building: It dates from 1932 and has as architect Robert Mallet-Stevens who, together with Le Corbusier, was a leading representative of the between-the-wars architecture in France (see previous post). It was built for Mallet-Steven’s friend and close collaborator, Louis Barillet (1880-1948), a stained-glass artist.
As said, this is now a museum / art gallery, to a large extent devoted to the painter Maurice Mendjisky (1890-1951), born in Poland. Maurice arrived in Paris at the age of 19, lived at the famous “La Ruche” (see previous post), became friends with Modigliani, Picasso, Soutine, Foujita…. He also met and lived some three years with Alice Prin, the famous “Kiki de Monparnasse” (see more below). Later Maurice moved to the south of France, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, where he had previously met his wife Rosette. Two sons were born. In 1933, together with the painter Paul Signac and the poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert (see previous post), portrayed (with his eternal cigarette in his mouth, see below) by Maurice, they created the anti-Nazi “Movement of the Intellectuals for Peace”. His wife was arrested by the Nazis in 1942, one of the sons was executed, all his Polish family exterminated… Maurice spent his last years illustrating the heroic resistance at the Warsaw ghetto, later published with poems by Paul Eluard. The surviving son, Serge Mendjisky, born in 1929, a painter and photographer, created this museum / art gallery, where you can of course also find examples of his own work as well as works by other artists.
There are a number of paintings that Maurice made of Alice Prin (1901-1953), during the three young years they were together (the three top left paintings here below), before she became famous as “Kiki de Montparnasse”, portrayed by Soutine, Foujita, Picabia, van Dongen, Cocteau, Calder… and of course especially by her companion Man Ray. She was not only a model, but she was also a painter herself, singer, actress… She wrote her autobiography with introductions by Hemingway and Foujita. She “reigned” as the “Queen of Montparnasse” during the 1920’s and 30’s.