The circus building is gone.

Unfortunately I don’t have any really interesting photos of my own to illustrate what I would like to talk about in this post – the place, the circus building, is not there anymore. 

It stood here – in the lower Montmartre / Pigalle area - for approximately 100 years, from 1873 to 1971 (1972?, 1973?). It was a circus with an interesting history.

Here we can see what it looked like.

(On the front corner there was for a long time a photographic studio – “Chamberlin – Photographie Artistique”.)

The circus was first named “Cirque Fernando”. Ferdinand Waltenberg – alias “Fernando” had created a circus in an open area in the neighbourhood, quite successful, which allowed him to finance this building. He ran it until 1897, when it was taken over by a clown he had engaged already in 1873, Géromino Medrano, and the name was changed to “Cirque Medrano”. In the 1960’s it was taken over by another famous circus family, Bouglione, and the name was, again, changed to “Cirque de Montmartre”, with less success. It was for a time also used for plays (“Théâtre de Soleil”), stand-up artists… and then sold. … and replaced by the apartment building - named “Bouglione”, the only reference to the past. (So much was destroyed during the 60’s and 70’s, today often with great regret.)

Here are some posters from the Fernando and Medrano years.

It was then a “real” circus with all kinds of animals, acrobats… and maybe especially clowns: Grock, Buster Keaton (several periods), the Fratellini Brothers, Achille Zavatta…  (One of the photos shows Buster Keaton playing cards, behind the scene, with a monkey.)

When the circus performers had their days off, the circus was often used for gatherings of different kinds, including political meetings (e.g. by Clemenceau).

But what really has created the reputation of this circus building is probably that it was visited and illustrated by a number of impressionist, post-impressionist and later artists.

Toulouse-Lautrec was probably the most frequent illustrator. Here are just a few examples.

Here are some illustrations by Degas (“Miss La La”), Renoir (the young sisters Francisca and Angelina Wartenberg), van Dongen, Seurat.

Picasso was a very frequent (and appreciative) visitor, but he tended to paint the artists back-scene.


A 102 year old merry-go-round.

At the Champs-de-Mars you can find a merry-go-round, now 102 years old, with its original mechanism, its original wooden horses… It’s run manually. With a little stick, the kids will try to catch some rings, which will allow them an extra round.

I have added some photos from the Champs-de-Mars, some “stolen” from the Merry-go-round website. We can see the Champs-de-Mars during the revolutionary years, during the “Expositions Universelles”… and an old postcard showing the merry-go-round. 

... and of course a look from the Eiffel Tower.


What is this... and why?

I was surprised to find all these installations in front of the entrance to « my » park. Well, I learnt that they will disappear in “a couple” of months. It’s part of the work on the extension of metro line no. 14.

In this part of the city we have at present line no. 13, probably the most overcrowded of all Paris metro lines. Something had to be done. (I’m lucky not to have to use it every day at 8 am or 6 pm.)

I have already posted about the close-by park Clichy-Batignolles-Martin Luther King (e.g. here), where the Olympic village would have been created if Paris had got the 2012 games. Instead it has now become a very popular park and starts to be surrounded by a number of office (12.700 people) and living (6.500 people) buildings. Everything is very ecological, all buildings are equipped with solar panels… (Some of these photos were taken before all the leaves were out.)

Furthermore the new Palace of Justice will be installed at the northern end of the park.

So, finally the decision was made to extend line no. 14, which at present stops at Gare Saint Lazare to the north. The line will – in 2019 - reach the northern suburbs like Gennevilliers, Saint Ouen…, but personally I’m more concerned by a new station,  Pont Cardinet, “just round the corner” for me.

Some 5.8 km (3.6 miles) and four new stations are being built. Costs are estimated to 1.4 billion € (slightly more in $).

The installations in front of “my” park, Square des Batignolles, are thus temporary and are quite modest…

… compared to what what you can find where the new Pont Cardinet station will be installed. The present little building will obviously disappear and be replaced by a building where the metro entrance(s) will be integrated.  


Rue du Cherche-Midi

Rue du Cherche-Midi could mean the street looking for the south, but it seems that it rather refers to a sundial (looking for “midi” = noon?). This one? Until 1832, the street had three names, but finally then got the present one for its total length.

It’s thus a rather long street, linking Rue de Sèvres and Rue de Vaugirard. Here is a comparison between the 18th century Turgot map (looking east rather than north) and today.

If we start with the low numbers, we should commence our walk at the corner of Rue de Sèvres at a little square named after a former prime minister, Michel Debré, previously named Carrefour-de-la-Croix-Rouge (nothing to do with the Red Cross organisation, rather linked to the French Revolution). This is also where we find the statue by Cesar from 1985, named “The Centaur”.

Some comments on some of the buildings: 

Nos. 2-12 used to be the place of a convent and a church, occupied during the 1789 Revolution by the “Croix Rouge” movement.No. 17 was where the Duc de Saint Simon wrote his “Memoires” (around 1750).

No. 18 is refered to as “Hôtel de Marsilly”.

No. 40, “Hôtel de Rochambeau”, was the home of the Comte de Rochambeau, a general, Marshall, who was the commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force, participating with Washington at the siege of Yorktown and at the battle of the Chesapeake, joined by Lafayette... He was an original member of the “Society of the Cincinnati”, founded in 1784 to preserve the ideals and fellowship of the members of the Continental Army who had served at the American Revolutionary War. 

No. 44 was where Victor Hugo spent his childhood and it was also the home of Abbé Grégoire, bishop … and revolutionary leader, a fervent abolitionist, supporter of the universal suffrage, cofounder of the “Bureau des Longitudes” (universal time, metric system…), the “Institut de France” (French Academies), the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts… There is an old water pump in the court. 

No. 47 was the home of Karl Marx’s daughter and her husband.
No. 76 was the home of Jules Sandeau, novelist and one of George Sand’s lovers.
Nos. 85-87 is referred to as “Petit Hôtel de Montmorency-Bours.

No. 86 needs a special mention for its court and its fountain (see also top picture). The name of the place, “Vieilles Thuileries” indicates tile manufacturing. 

No. 89 is named “Grand Hôtel de Montmorency” and houses today the Embassy of Mali. One of its occupants was “Madame Sans-Gêne”, a nickname attributed to her as she often irritated Napoleon (but his statue is to be seen in the entrance).  

No. 95, “Hôtel de Chambon” was (is?) owned by Gérard Depardieu, (still?) for sale. (Have a look here.)

No. 112 was the place for tax paying (tax farming), before the construction of the “Wall of the Farmers General” (see previous posts).

Going backwards, at no. 55 there is today a school of design. Already during the 19th century you could find an art academy for women here – they were not allowed into the official art schools before 1897. A sculptor, René Iché, resistant, hid the Dreyfus documents in his workshop here during the WWII occupation.

What really is charming with this – and many other Paris streets – is what you can find when you push some doors and gates.

Of course, this is also a street for shopping…

… and for eating and drinking.

On your way you will also find a statue by Haïm Kern from 1990 representing the author, Nobel Prize winner (1952), François Mauriac (1885-1970 ).

After crossing Boulevard de Montparnasse, there are still a few buildings, more especially a giant very recent one, designed by Jean Nouvel (again), “Imagine” (Institut des Maladies Génétiques), an institute dedicated to genetic diseases. 

The street ends when reaching Rue de Vaugirard at Place Camille Claudel and the nice Villa Garnier.  

A little side look on a crossing little street, Rue Jean Ferrandi with a charming complex of artist studios. One of the occupants was Diego Rivera, together with his first wife Angelina Beloff. They lived here a few years during and after WWI.  


Another remarkable woman – Berthe Weill

Many may know art dealers active during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries like Durand-Ruel, Vollard, Rosenberg, Wildenstein, Kahnweiler… Less known is probably Berthe Weill, however… she was the first to sell works by Picasso, Matisse… the only one who organised a solo exhibition by Modigliani during his lifetime… but she never made a fortune despite some almost 40 years of activity.

I recently bought a book by a young lady, Marianne Le Morvan, about the fascinating Berthe Weill… and I got even more curious and thought that I must include something about her in my blog. I have used a lot of information from Marianne Le Morvan’s book, but also from her blog … and from elsewhere.
Berthe Weill (1865-1951) started to work and get practice in an antique shop, She opened a modest shop with her brother in 1897 – she was 32 – but her real interest had become “art”. In 1900 she came in contact with the young Picasso, newly arrived in Paris, who had one of his Barcelona paintings (this one?) exhibited at the “Exposition Universelle”. She sold first three corrida sketches and then the famous Picasso version of “Le Moulin de la Galette”, painted in 1900 (now at Guggenheim NY).

By the end of 1901, Berthe opened, on her own, “Galerie B. Weill”. During 1902, she exhibited Picasso’s works twice. Here we see the ad for the second exhibition, made together with three other painters, including Ramon Pichot, who was Picasso’s close (Spanish) friend. This was the beginning of Picasso’s blue period.

As a parenthesis: Picasso’s blue period may have commenced with the portrait of another of his close friends, Casagemas, who committed suicide because of unreciprocated love for Germaine, who later married Ramon Pichot. The couple obviously settled down and worked at “La Maison Rose”, often painted, e.g. by Utrillo. Picasso portrayed both Germaine and Ramon and when Ramon died – too early - Picasso often helped Germaine economically.

Picasso was not the only one who got a start thanks to Berthe - she was also the first to sell Matisse. Here is a list of some of the well-known artists who she exhibited and promoted. We can see that many were young – and unknown – when they were first exhibited. Some of them left her for other art dealers, when they started to have a market value. However, others were “faithful” even then and, especially, as Berthe never managed to make a good living from her profession, came - by friendship - back to her with part of their production later, during the 1920’s and 30’s.  

It is also remarkable that Berthe was the only one to offer a solo exhibition to Modigliani during his lifetime, in 1917. However, it met some difficulties – police intervened due to the nudity.

Berthe was also doing a lot for female artists. Here we can see some of them. Especially Emilie Charmy became a good personal friend. Hermine David got married later to the painter Jules Pascin and Valentine Pratz to Zadkine.

This is what Berthe looked like, portrayed by a number of artists and especially (the large one) in 1920 by Picasso.

She published her memoires to celebrate 30 years of activity. “Pan… dans l’oeil” was illustrated by Picasso, Dufy and Pascin.

Here are some photos of the addresses where she had her galleries. The first one, where she remained until 1917 was at 25 rue Victor Massé. A plaque is there now.  
The second one was at 50 rue Taitbout, which she left in 1920.

The next one, until 1927, was at 46 rue Lafitte.

Finally, she moved to 27 rue Saint-Dominique, where she was expelled for unpaid rents in 1939. There is a plaque, but only to indicate that Chateaubriand has lived there. She obviously lived here in a flat under very modest circumstances during the WWII years and managed somehow not to be deported despite her Jewish origins and thanks to her own bravery.

In 1946, some 80 paintings and sculptures, offered by her artist friends were auctioned. This helped her to survive fairly well in a home for elderly people until her death in 1951, almost blind. She was in 1948 offered the “Légion d’Honneur”.