Monday 28 May
Took advantage of a warm sunny day to do another local walking tour. First stop was the Musee de Vieux Montmartre. This is the oldest house on the hill and many of the well-known painters and writers associated with Montmartre lived here: Renoir, Valadon, Dufy among others. You enter through a shady old-fashioned garden.
Inside there are many original works by Utrillo, Toulouse-Lautrec and Willette, but also a comprehensive history of the area. You learn that gypsum was mined here, hauled out by donkeys, and used not only in the construction of local buildings, but also taken to Paris. It was used to make plaster casts as well (hence ‘plaster of Paris’).
Montmartre was the site of a siege during the brief two-month rule of the Paris Commune in 1871. The Commune had come about as the result of an uprising in Paris after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. A high proportion of the Communards were skilled workers, many of them leftist political activists. Women too played an important role.
As the Central Committee of the National Guard gained authority, the government moved to seize the movement’s cannon, some of which were stored on the Butte of Montmartre. Many were killed here, as well as in other sites across Paris, and thousands more were executed or deported to New Caledonia.
Much of the collection is given over to a celebration of Montmartre’s famous night life, with dozens of Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters for the Moulin Rouge, Chat Noir, Le Lapin Agile and other venues.
Our second visit was to the Espace Dali, a beautiful gallery with a huge collection of his statues, as well as paintings. Plenty of commentary about Dali’s use of symbols (eg the melting clocks and their relationship to the changing nature of experienced time). And lots of photographs of Dali and his outrageous moustache.