I recently read “Luncheon of the Boating Party” by Susan Vreeland – the story of Renoir painting this wonderful painting. The Musee de Montmartre was the home for a number of artists, and Renoir had his studio here for a couple of years.
The swing still hangs in its garden, the inspiration for his painting “The Swing” and he painted “Le bal du Moulin de la Galette” in his studio – a large and ambitious painting, similar to “Luncheon of the Boating Party” in that it captures a moment in time of a group seated at a table amongst other groups. He is a magnificent painter and captures light and movement – and the people look so real – you want to touch them.
At the side of the house, now a museum is a tiny vineyard which produces enough grapes for wine each year. There are black cats in the garden and each room of the house captures a different time in Montmartre’s checkered history. I have been so immersed in the history of seventeenth century England that it dawned on me that there is an awful lot of other history about other people and places that I didn’t know I didn’t know. So we made our way through this small museum very slowly soaking in the stories about events that took place here.
While we were at the museum, it felt like we were in the middle of the country – it was quiet and peaceful and when you looked out of the window, you could see a vineyard and large houses. However, once you come out onto the street and walk along Montmartre’s narrow winding streets it changes in an instant.
There were people everywhere – a crazy cacophony of sound and colour which I found dazzling. If Paris was not so large, and there were not so many things to see and do, I would have simply stopped, found a spot and sat and soaked it in.
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