Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Those Crazy Bohemians! (Place du Tertre)

As an indie author, I can appreciate the new found freedom the Impressionists found when they started painting outside.  How nice to be able to get out of the confines of a studio and be out in the fresh air! I know that I enjoy writing outside during the months that weather permits.  There is just something about being outside that inspires me. Regardless of if the Impressionists were in a busy city setting or out in the countryside, I am certain that they found it to be inspiring, too.

The most popular place to paint outside in Montmartre became Place du Tertre. Sitting in the heart of Montmartre's elevated area, this tiny cobblestone square became a hub of artistic activity. Men painted frantically, new ideas coming faster than paint could dry. Those ideas were shared and tested, sometimes to great success.

Place du Terte had some trees, but was surrounded on all four sides by village life going on about its business. Many people would stop and watch those bohemians, shaking their heads either in wonder or in confusion as to why anyone would try to paint a street scene in "those" colors! What the villagers couldn't know was that history was happening right before their eyes.  This era is now seen as one of the most influential, if not the most, periods in art history. Oh, you crazy bohemians. You were just trying to find a way to keep eating.  In the process, you set the world of art on fire.

It didn't hurt that Place du Tertre was only a few blocks away from the infamous Au Lapin Agile, a favorite watering hole for the artists. Au Lapin is so steeped in history that a future post will be devoted to it.

Artists still gather to paint at Place du Tertre every day.  In fact, it grew so packed with artists that one now has to apply for a permit to paint there.  The permit, of course, costs you money. The day is divided into two parts, with some artists jealously guarding their extremely small space until lunch, and others coming in after lunch to claim those small areas. Dining tables have also been crammed in, taking space away from artists.

Now it is commercial.  Now, many of the artists overcharge and - quite frankly - don't paint nearly as well as they should in order to ask the prices they seem to think they are entitled to.

But back then?  Ah, back then they painted for the love of it.  They painted because they had to, and only hoped they would sell a piece before they went hungry too many nights. Overcharge? Hell, some would  give a painting away in exchange for a small piece of cheese, a baguette, and a small bottle of the cheap red wine the nunnery in Montmartre produced.

And if they got those things, they usually didn't hesitate to share with their friends. After all, what is a good glass of vin worth, if not shared in the company of others?

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