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.


Anonymous said...

All of those great artists portraying the circus performers! Amazing!
They are all so beautiful...Picasso's paintings perhaps the most moving...

Thank you, Peter for such a beautiful post.

martinealison said...

Bonjour cher Peter,

Le disparition de ce cirque est un peu triste... Aujourd'hui tu lui rends un bel hommage avec cette publication. J'espère que son âme continue à flotter dans les murs de cet immeuble et que les habitants y sont heureux... peut-être parce que les rires des enfants résonnent encore...

❀ Gros bisous ❀

claude said...

Encore un exemple du beau détruit pour faire du moche. Et puis comme dit Martinealison la disparition d'une cirque comme celui-ci est trsite.

Thérèse said...

Joli traité de ce qui fut et de ce qui le remplace. Pas toujours facile à vivre.

Jeanie said...

It just kills me when I see a gorgeous building like that demolished for something with so little personality. The paintings are wonderful and I'm glad you shared them. They give such a feel of energy and beauty and life. I didn't know about this building so once again, thank you!

Studio at the Farm said...

Fascinating post, Peter. I am sorry they replaced the old circus building - it had such a great cultural history. The circus paintings are some of my favorites of the Impressionists, and the posters are so striking.

Harriet said...

Developers everywhere seem to want to remove beautiful old structures and replace them with cheap-looking, industrial-looking buildings. Too bad.

Thanks for this post and the tie-in to the paintings.

Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed your post Peter and it made me reminisce. My mother would take me to the Cirque Medrano when I was a little girl. We would walk there as it was not very far from home – I could see our place on your map. I remember Zavatta with his huge shoes. I liked their dog tricks too. I did not know it had been taken down – a shame, really. There was another circus, called Le Cirque Pinder – I think that one “toured” France but I think I saw it in Paris – is it still going? I remember another one, Le Cirque d’Hiver – went there several times, but the Medrano since it was so close to us, we went there more often.