BOHEMIANISM IN MONTMARTRE

“The exhibitors present views of Montmartre, pictures of the heroes and regulars who throng to this Parisian district with its special character; we also see, perpetuated in pastel or crayon, aspects of the “Boulevardier” spirit and the boulevards themselves, and the allure of an elegant outline or a charming gesture, depicted with breathless curiosity”.

The exhibition that opened on 17 March 1911 at the Devambez gallery captured the contrast between the “special character” of the Butte Montmartre and the frenetically modern atmosphere of the boulevards linking it to, but also separating it from, the rest of the city.

Montmartre in the first decade of the century was the almost bucolic setting for the legendary Bateau-Lavoir, where artists lived and mingled: Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, André Salmon, Juan Gris, Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Braque, Kees Van Dongen and Pierre Mac Orlan, who in 1932 was to publish La Croix, l’ancre et la grenade, cinq contes for Devambez.

In 1927, Mac Orlan wrote the preface for the catalogue of the Editions de la Roseraie, the publishing house that had worked with Édouard Chimot before he reached the peak of his career as artistic director of the Editions d’art Devambez in the 1920s.

For Devambez, Chimot produced some thirty books in strictly limited editions, illustrated with original drawings by major artists including Pierre Brissaud, Drian, Foujita and Chimot himself.

Montmartre in the 1910s may have been the cradle of modern art, but it was also the home of a vineyard that ran alongside the Lapin Agile, “the oldest artistic cabaret in Paris”, bought by Aristide Bruant in 1913 when “this corner of old Paris” was not to be confused, as Roland Dorgelès said in Le Château des brouillards, with “lower Montmartre, with its nightclubs and ladies’ hairdressers”.

Partly thanks to its owner, Frédé, a sort of Robinson Crusoe who was always accompanied by his legendary donkey, Lolo, the Lapin Agile quickly became “a veritable cultural institution” for the bohemian denizens of Montmartre: Mac Orlan often sang there, Apollinaire read poems from Alcools, Picasso painted portraits, and Francis Carco and Pierre Louÿs spent evenings there.

The artworks exhibited by Devambez in 1911 perfectly captured this dynamic where the past and the present met and where avant-garde ideas found a privileged place in the “village of Monmartre”, a stone’s throw from the hubbub of the boulevards, where motor cars were making their first appearance.

Montmartre et le Boulevard, exposition de peintures, pastels, aquarelles, dessins, gravures, sculptures, exhibition catalogue, galerie Devambez, 17-31 March 1911, Paris, Devambez, 1911

Pierre Louÿs, Les Chansons de Bilitis, 12 original etchings by Édouard Chimot, Paris, Éditions d’art Devambez, 1925

Pierre Louÿs, Les Poésies de Méléagre, 15 original colour etchings by Édouard Chimot, Paris, Éditions d’art Devambez, 1926

Pierre Louÿs, La Femme et le Pantin, 16 original colour etchings by Édouard Chimot, Paris, Éditions d’art Devambez, 1928

Pierre Mac Orlan, La Croix, l’ancre et la grenade, cinq contes, illustrations by Lucien Boucher, Paris, Devambez, 1932

Maurice Magre, Les Belles de nuit, 18 original etchings by Édouard Chimot, Paris, Éditions d’art Devambez, 1927

Paul Verlaine, Parallèlement, 23 etchings by Édouard Chimot, Paris, Éditions d’art Devambez, 1931