The Musée de Montmartre: A True Multi-faceted Gem!

The Musée de Montmartre is one of my favourite museums in Paris and is really worth visiting for so many reasons.

First of all the museum is located on top of the Butte in a peaceful cobbled street so typical of Montmartre, the ‘rue Cortot’. And although Montmartre may be the most touristic area of Paris this street and the museum itself remain rather off the beaten track and not too crowdy.

Musee de Montmartre - Rue Cortot - Paris
Musee de Montmartre – Rue Cortot – Paris

Secondly the permanent collections are exhibited in a beautiful house which is the oldest house in Montmartre. It was built in the middle of the 17th century and fully renovated in 1959. It is a four-storey building offering a succession of charming rooms with apparent oak beams and terracotta floor tiles and vista of the gardens from every window. The works exhibited tell the history of Montmartre. One can see paintings of landscapes of the Butte in the 19th century, covered with gardens, vineyard and windmills; or souvenirs of the cabarets whose history cannot be separated from the one of Montmartre: Le Chat Noir, Le Lapin Agile or Le Moulin Rouge.

Thirdly the Musée de Montmartre houses the studio of Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo, which is absolutely amazing. A perfect replica of the artists’ workshop has been built in its genuine exceptional location on top of the second building of the museum. It offers a terrific view on the roof of the old house, on the gardens and on Paris in the background. The studio is bright and peaceful, with a unique and authentic atmosphere thanks to all the period furniture and objets exhibited -including a genuine Almanach des Postes of 1925-. None of them belonged to the artists but the reconstruction is faithful and striking.

And last but not least the garden of the museum is idyllic and charming. I should say ‘the gardens’ as they are multiple, each of them offering a very special and different atmosphere. They are named ‘The Renoir Gardens‘ as the impressionist artist used to live and paint there.

They are romantic, peaceful and clear in front of the Studio of Suzanne Valadon. There one can enjoy a drink in an atmosphere evoking the impressionists’ period: a pond with water lilies; table, chairs and sunshade of the ‘Café Renoir’; and even a swing hanged up in the precise spot where Auguste Renoir painted his masterpiece: La balançoire, in 1876.

At the back of the museum the gardens are much wilder and the atmosphere totally different. One gets lost into the groves walking down a path through flowers and trees; one can sit down on a stump and enjoy dreaming or reading. Further on the right one notices a couple of hives hidden in the old wood of ‘8 rue Cortot’ which is today an ecological reserve of the City of Paris planted with trees and where only cats have access.

The path comes out onto the vineyard of Montmartre: 1762 vines of 27 grape varieties, mainly Gamay, have been planted and allow to produce a light red wine, the ‘Clos Montmartre’. The view onto the vineyard and the small houses below including the cabaret ‘Le Lapin Agile’ is amazing. It reminds the old Montmartre and offers a striking contrast with the recent buildings of northern Paris in the background. One stay there and contemplates past and present, countryside and urbanization.

If need be here are two more reasons to go and visit the Musée de Montmartre this summer. Firstly a superb exhibition dedicated to the Dutch painter Kees Van Dongen is taking place there until 26 August 2018. It is focused on the years that the artist spent in the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre from 1905. Beautiful paintings coming from various museums of the world and from private collections are exhibited: A unique opportunity to see them in a very successful presentation. Among my favourites: ‘Fernande Olivier’ (the portrait on the exhibition’s poster); ‘Deux Yeux’; and in the last room, ‘Femme allongée’ and ‘La promeneuse’.

Photographies are not allowed and the only way to admire them is to go there…

Musee de Montmartre - Paris - Exhibition Van Dongen
Musee de Montmartre – Paris – Exhibition Van Dongen

Finally the Musée de Montmartre offers late-night opening until 10pm every Thursday in July and August. One can then enjoy an even more romantic atmosphere and especially admire the beautiful light of sunset in the gardens and on the vineyard, the surroundings streets and houses and the northern part of Paris. And one can choose between the usual visit at usual price (12€) or buy a special entrance ticket including the degustation of a glass of champagne in the gardens (extra cost of 4€). Nothing could be more romantic!

I went to the Musée de Montmartre during the day last week and although Paris is busy with tourists at that time of the year it was a heaven of tranquillity. I spent two hours there, visiting the museum, the apartment and studio of Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo, the beautiful exhibition Van Dongen and also strolling in the multiple nooks of the gardens. In such a magical atmosphere I lost track of time: A true delight!

Practical information : Musée de Montmartre – 12 rue Cortot 75018 – 10am-6pm (5pm from October till March) – Late-night opening on Thursday until 10pm in July and August – Exhibition ‘Van Dongen et le Bateau-lavoir’ until 26 August 2018

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

L’Institut Giacometti in Paris: New and So Intimate!

A new spot dedicated to the famous Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) has just opened in Paris. It is called: L’institut Giacometti and it is not one more museum but a completely different place which enables to be admitted into the artist’s private life. One thought one knew everything about the sculptor whose works are so familiar. By visiting l’Institut Giacometti one realizes that one still has a lot to learn: a true delight!

an Art Deco Private mansion in Montparnasse

The building chosen to welcome the Institute used to be the house of the French decorator Paul Follot (1877-1941) and is a superb listed monument. It has been beautifully renovated, the interior design and the Art Deco period decorations are outstanding: panelling, furniture, fireplaces, stained-glass windows, tiled floors…

The private mansion is located in the area of Montparnasse, where so many artists used to live in the beginning of 20th century and where many artists’ studios can be seen or visited today. It is standing in a quiet street along the Montparnasse Cemetery whose trees can be seen from inside the house. Alberto Giacometti had his studio nearby, on 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron, from 1926 until his death.

The reconstruction of Giacometti’s studio

As soon as one enters the building, one is immersed in the life and works of the sculptor thanks to the reconstruction of his studio. One has a seat on one of the steps in front of it and admires the tiny studio where Giacometti used to work. Everything has been faithfully reconstucted: From the bed where the artist used to rest to his last sculptures and to the walls covered with drawings; and on the table, from the paintbrushes and pencils to his glasses and ashtray.

Giacometti’s studio had been immortalised by famous photographers such as Doisneau or Brassaï. It is part of the myth of the artist and a key to better understand him and imagine him live and work.

Such a close and intimate relationship with the artist is really unique and is part of what makes the Institute a must-visit!

The exhibition of never seen sculptures

The seventy artworks exhibited in the reconstruction of Giacometti’s studio had never been shown before. Some other masterpieces are exhibited for the first time by the Institute in the various rooms of the house. My favourite is the group of the Women of Venice (painted plaster 1956), remarkably exhibited in the library on the first floor: so moving!

Institut Giacometti-Paris-Women of Venice 1956
Institut Giacometti-Paris-Women of Venice 1956

I also like the Cage, which evokes the space of a room with a man and a woman whose spread arms suggest the opening of a curtain giving access to a world of pleasure. Not easy to photograph… I let you discover it during your visit!

Here are some other works:

Several temporary exhibitions will take place there all along the year. All of them will aim to come close to the life and work of Giacometti through another eye. The first one: ‘Giacometti’s studio as seen by Jean Genet’ makes the sculptor and the writer converse together. The interaction between both artists is beautifully depicted through their respective works. One can sit next to the fireplace and listen to Jean Genet reading his text, the Giacometti’s studio. And one can admire the beautiful Portrait of Jean Genet painted by the sculptor. Some photographs and videos show the friendship between the two men.

Institut Giacometti-Paris-View from outside
Institut Giacometti-Paris-View from outside

I highly recommend you the visit of this elegant and cozy place. As told before it is not a museum and one cannot buy tickets on the premises. One has to book in advance on the website of the Institute and choose a time of visit. Only 40 visitors are allowed per time slot, which reinforces the feeling of privacy and closeness to the artist. I love it!

Practical information : Institut Giacometti – 5 rue Victor-Schoelcher 75014 – Exhibition ‘L’atelier d’Alberto Giacometti vu par Jean Genet’ – Until 16 September 2018 – 10am-5pm – Advanced booking only

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

Top Five Unusual Churches in Paris

There are more than 100 churches in Paris. So many are beautiful or worth the visit due to their architecture or to the artworks that they house that I would not be able to choose a top three, a top five or even a top ten. For that reason I have chosen to write a post about the most unusual churches in Paris. Two of them are really hidden and off the beaten track and one may have never heard of them. The other three are better known but each of them offers a unique and superb architecture not to be missed. Let’s discover them from the most secret to the most magnificent.

The most invisible : L’Eglise Saint Ignace
Eglise Saint Ignace - Paris - Hidden in the Centre Sevres
Eglise Saint Ignace – Paris – Hidden in the Centre Sevres

One reaches the Eglise Saint Ignace through the porch of the 33 Rue de Sèvres: at the end of a modern corridor one can see two glass doors with the name of the church written on them. The Church cannot be seen from the street: since 1972 it has been completely integrated into the Centre Sèvres, the Jesuite Faculty of Paris.

As its name suggests the Eglise Saint Ignace was built by the Jesuits 160 years ago. Here the altar is located in the middle of the congregation; the seats form an ellipse around it; and the congregation takes part in the celebration. The Church has just been beautifully renovated and is now superb and bright. Yet the 52 windows of the triforium are blind… as behind them are standing the bookshelves of the Faculty’s library.

Eglise Saint Ignace - Paris - The painted glasses of light by Patrick Rimoux
Eglise Saint Ignace – Paris – The painted glasses of light by Patrick Rimoux

The last step of the renovation will be the floodlighting of those 52 blind windows by painted glasses of light. Six of them are already in place under the organ and one can imagine what the atmosphere will be when it is over: peaceful and favourable to meditation. I love them… and for sure I will come back!

Eglise Saint Ignace – 33 rue de Sèvres, 75006 Paris

The most confidential : L’Eglise Saint Serge
Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge - Paris - View of the outside from the garden
Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge – Paris – View of the outside from the garden

The Eglise Saint Serge hides in the end of a path, in the middle of a garden and on top of the hill Saint Serge, an unknown hill in the vicinity of the Buttes Chaumont. Its history is fascinating and recounts the one of the migrations in this part of Paris between 1850 and 1925.

In the second half of 19th century many German immigrants came and lived in that area. The hill was bought in 1858 by the minister Bodelschwing who organized a Lutheran congregation with a church, built in 1861, and a school. In 1918 the buildings were requisitioned by the French State and sold by auction a couple of years later. There were bought by the Russian Orthodox Church on 18 July 1924… on Saint Serge’s day. Indeed since the Russian Revolution many Russian people had emigrated to Paris and the building of a church for them had become necessary. The Lutheran church has been turned into an Orthodox one since that time.

Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge - Paris - Inside at vespers
Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge – Paris – Inside at vespers

The outside of the church is charming and the inside is really worth seeing. One can enter every day at 7am for the matins and at 6pm for the vespers. And on 10 June 2018 a piano concert will take place in the Church. Not to be missed ! The walls, the ceiling, the benches, the stools, the candlesticks… everything has been carved and painted. One is captivated by the decor, the singing of the prayers mixed with the one of the birds, the leaves of the trees trembling behind the windows. One feels elsewhere, somewhere in the Russian countryside.

Eglise Saint Serge – 93 rue de Crimée, 75019 Paris

The most rustic : L’Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne
Charonne - Paris - The purity of the architecture after renovation
Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne – Paris – The purity of the architecture after renovation

The Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne is perched on a promontory above the rue de Bagnolet and looks like the church of a village. One can still imagine it in the middle of vineyards as it used to be in the past. As rustic churches do, Saint Germain de Charonne still has its churchyard, which is almost unique in Paris: the only other Parisian church with a churchyard is Saint Pierre de Montmartre.

The inside has been beautifully restored and shows the various ages of the history of the church with a mix of romanesque remains such as the big pillars of the tower; 15th and 16th century architecture; and more recent works such as the organ (1850) or the stained-glass windows (1950). I like its sobriety and rusticity.

And do not miss a walk in the picturesque churchyard: so peaceful, unusual and charming, and offering nice views on the north side of the church.

Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne-Paris - The entrance, the church tower and adjacent churchyard
Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne-Paris – The entrance, the church tower and adjacent churchyard

Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne – 4 place Saint Blaise, 75020 Paris

The most surprising : L’Eglise Notre Dame du Travail
Eglise Notre Dame du Travail - Paris - Bright and light inside
Eglise Notre Dame du Travail – Paris – Bright and light inside

The Eglise Notre Dame du Travail was built between 1899 and 1901 in order to welcome the hundreds of people working at the World Fairs taking place in the neighbouring Champ de Mars. Indeed the former church, Notre Dame de Plaisance, had become too small.

The contrast between the outside built in a traditional Romanesque style and the inside is striking. Both are beautiful but the interior design of the church is what makes it unique: The vaults are made of metallic arches carried by thin iron columns. The whole gives the building an exceptional brightness and lightness. I love it!

Eglise Notre Dame du Travail - Paris - View from the choir
Eglise Notre Dame du Travail – Paris – View from the choir

Some of the artworks inside are also quite unsual and worth seeing. Three mural paintings in the side naves show patron saints for handicrafts: Saint Eloi (metal workers), Saint Luc (art workers) and Saint Joseph (carpenters). And do not miss the huge baptismal font or the chapel where a pieta and a war memorial coexist!

Eglise Notre Dame du Travail – 59 rue Vercingétorix, 75014 Paris

The most recent : La Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinité
Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite - Paris - View from the Pont de l Alma
Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite – Paris – View from the Pont de l Alma

The Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinité is the most important Russian Orthodox Church in Paris. The project of its construction had been launched by Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Poutine and the Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II in 2007 and knew ups and downs, just like the relations between France and Russia.

In the end the church was built, designed by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, and is part of the Spiritual and Cultural Russian Orthodox Centre. This Centre also includes on the same premises a cultural, an administrative and an educational building. The Cathedral was consecrated in December 2016.

Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite - Paris - The iconostasis
Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite – Paris – The iconostasis

The outside as well as the inside are both huge, bright and modern. One can enter the Cathedral through a security gate and attend a free and very interesting guided tour. No chairs inside: Indeed in the Orthodox liturgy the congregation is standing during the one and a half hour celebration. And no organ: the choir is standing on the balcony and the hymns are only choral, not instrumental. One will admire the magnificent iconostasis, the screen that separates the altar and the nave in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which illuminates a besides white and sober inside.

Cathédrale de la Sainte Trinité – 1 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –