What a small street can hide...

Walking along a small discrete street in the 15th arrondissement, rue Blomet, you can find a little green space, where you can play “pétanque” – if you are a member of the “Union Bouliste du 15e”. “Pétanque” is of course one form of the game of “boules” where you are supposed to toss or roll steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball, in general red, referred to as the “cochonnet” (actually meaning "piglet"). “Pétanque” comes from the provençal dialect word “petanca” which refers to “feet fixed” – on the ground. “Pétanque” should be played with the feet fixed. There are other forms of the “boules” games where you e.g. can do a “run up” to the throw, in France in general referred to as “boule lyonnaise”.

The game, mostly played by amateurs as a nice relaxed pastime, needs however - as we can see - a lot of concentration. (There are some more or less professional players also – not here – and even World Championships.)

Then comes the time for measuring the distance to the “cochonnet”.

There is also time for a break.

Immediate neighbour to the “pétanque” ground, 45, rue Blomet, there is now a little square - previous buildings are gone. This used once to be the home of the French sculptor Alfred Boucher (1850-1934), who had Camille Claudel as a pupil, working as a teacher at the “Académie Colarossi” (I posted about it here.). He even sculpted Camille reading a book. When Boucher moved to Florence he asked his friend Auguste Rodin to take over… and we know what then happened. 

During the 1920’s Juan Miro (1893-1983) shared a studio here with his friend Pablo Gargallo (1881-1934).

Robert Desnos (1900-1945), a poet who played a key role in the Surrealist movement also lived here. His home became a meeting place for the leading Surrealist artists like Arp, Dubuffet, Ernst, Gris, Malakine, Picasso, Man Ray, Tanguy, including authors, poets like Eluard, Hemingway, Leiris, Gertude Stein…

Miro later offered the sculpture “L’oiseau lunaire” (The Moonbird) which was placed here in 1974. It’s meant as an homage to the poet Robert Desnos (also an active resistant who died in a concentration camp).

A close neighbour to 45, rue Blomet, was the cabaret “Bal Nègre” (at no. 33). (No picture here – the building is behind scaffolding.) Before closing in the 1960’s and especially during the 1920-30’s, this was a place where the above mentioned artists met, but also Joséphine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Mistinguette, Foujita, Kiki de Montparnasse, Alexander Calder, Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, F.S.Fitzgerald, Jean Cocteau, Francis Picabia, Kees van Dongen… and even the future King Edward VIII. Later Sydney Bechet played here and the future Saint-Germain-des-Prés “gang” – Sartre, de Beauvoir, Vian, Prévert, Gréco… - met. The place is supposed to reopen in 2017, the scaffolding will hopefully be gone and I may go there.


Jeanie said...

What a charming street and site. I love seeing these games in the parks -- just lovely.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for telling us about all of these artists and poets!
Camille Claudel was very lucky to have Alfred Boucher as a teacher. I read that when it came to sculpting marble Mlle Claudel was far superior to Rodin.