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A lively and deeply researched group biography of the figures who transformed the world of art in bohemian Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century In Montmartre is a colorful history of the birth of Modernist art as it arose from one of the most astonishing collections of artistic talent ever assembled. It begins in October 1900, as a teenage Pablo Picasso, eager A lively and deeply researched group biography of the figures who transformed the world of art in bohemian Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century In Montmartre is a colorful history of the birth of Modernist art as it arose from one of the most astonishing collections of artistic talent ever assembled. It begins in October 1900, as a teenage Pablo Picasso, eager for fame and fortune, first makes his way up the hillside of Paris’s famous windmill-topped district. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafés, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joins the likes of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more, in revolutionizing artistic expression. Sue Roe has blended exceptional scholarship with graceful prose to write this remarkable group portrait of the men and women who profoundly changed the arts of painting, sculpture, dance, music, literature, and fashion. She describes the origins of movements like Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism, and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse. Relating the colorful lives and complicated relationships of this dramatic bohemian scene, Roe illuminates the excitement of the moment when these bold experiments in artistic representation and performance began to take shape. A thrilling account, In Montmartre captures an extraordinary group on the cusp of fame and immortality. Through their stories, Roe brings to life one of the key moments in the history of art. Praise for In Montmartre "Lively and engaging….[Readers] will find a fresh sense of how all these people—the geniuses and the hangers-on, the wealthy collectors and the unworldly painters—related to each other…..In [Roe’s] entertaining, ingeniously structured account Roe brings Montmatre’s hedyday back to life." —Sunday Times (London)   "With evocative imagery Roe sketches out the intensely visual spectacle on which Montmatre’s artistic community was able to draw…. Roe is particularly good at communicating the extraordinary devotion of Matisse and Picasso to their work." —Financial Times


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A lively and deeply researched group biography of the figures who transformed the world of art in bohemian Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century In Montmartre is a colorful history of the birth of Modernist art as it arose from one of the most astonishing collections of artistic talent ever assembled. It begins in October 1900, as a teenage Pablo Picasso, eager A lively and deeply researched group biography of the figures who transformed the world of art in bohemian Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century In Montmartre is a colorful history of the birth of Modernist art as it arose from one of the most astonishing collections of artistic talent ever assembled. It begins in October 1900, as a teenage Pablo Picasso, eager for fame and fortune, first makes his way up the hillside of Paris’s famous windmill-topped district. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafés, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joins the likes of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more, in revolutionizing artistic expression. Sue Roe has blended exceptional scholarship with graceful prose to write this remarkable group portrait of the men and women who profoundly changed the arts of painting, sculpture, dance, music, literature, and fashion. She describes the origins of movements like Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism, and reconstructs the stories behind immortal paintings by Picasso and Matisse. Relating the colorful lives and complicated relationships of this dramatic bohemian scene, Roe illuminates the excitement of the moment when these bold experiments in artistic representation and performance began to take shape. A thrilling account, In Montmartre captures an extraordinary group on the cusp of fame and immortality. Through their stories, Roe brings to life one of the key moments in the history of art. Praise for In Montmartre "Lively and engaging….[Readers] will find a fresh sense of how all these people—the geniuses and the hangers-on, the wealthy collectors and the unworldly painters—related to each other…..In [Roe’s] entertaining, ingeniously structured account Roe brings Montmatre’s hedyday back to life." —Sunday Times (London)   "With evocative imagery Roe sketches out the intensely visual spectacle on which Montmatre’s artistic community was able to draw…. Roe is particularly good at communicating the extraordinary devotion of Matisse and Picasso to their work." —Financial Times

30 review for In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”It is a wonderful thing how much courage it takes even to buy a clock you are very much liking when it is a kind of one everyone thinks only a servant should be owning. It is very wonderful how much courage it takes to buy bright coloured handkerchiefs when everyone having good taste uses white ones or pale coloured ones, when a bright coloured one gives you so much pleasure you suffer always at not having them. It is very hard to have the courage of your being in you, in clocks, in handkerchie ”It is a wonderful thing how much courage it takes even to buy a clock you are very much liking when it is a kind of one everyone thinks only a servant should be owning. It is very wonderful how much courage it takes to buy bright coloured handkerchiefs when everyone having good taste uses white ones or pale coloured ones, when a bright coloured one gives you so much pleasure you suffer always at not having them. It is very hard to have the courage of your being in you, in clocks, in handkerchiefs, in aspirations, in liking things that are low, in anything.” ---Gertrude Stein The young Pablo PIcasso, circa 1904, photographed by Ricard Canals i Llambi. As I continue to add prints of Modernist and Impressionist painters with a few Da Vinci’s and Vermeer’s to my growing collection,I find it so inspirational to have surrounded myself with such divergent artistic concepts. When I look at a Matisse or a Picasso or a Vlaminck or a van Dongen or a Modigliani or a Dali or a Van Gogh, their expressions of ideas are so unique to them that it is as if I’m seeing the world through their eyes. I can steal the eyes of a painter, at least briefly, and even once my eyes have flicked away from the painting, the dazzling array of colors can transform my reality into a Matisse or a Picasso masterpiece. I decided to paint some of the walls of my house a celery green. It is bold. Bolder than I expected, but maybe there was a part of me as I looked at those color chips that wanted to break loose from the safe color scheme of beiges, grays, and creams. A benefit I hadn’t expected is this color sensuously frames the art on my walls and seems to give each painting more depth. I also discovered that looking at celery green makes me happy. So when I read that quote by Gertrude Stein, I thought about my celery green and the reactions I’ve received so far from neighbors and friends who see this, dare I say, courageous color for the first time and look like they have just bit into a piece of raw rhubarb. Americans came to Paris to experience the Montmartre district, to see the scandalous shows, drink too much, flirt with beautiful Parisian girls, and hopefully brush shoulders with some of these almost famous celebrity painters. These painters are known in certain circles, but not known as well as they soon would be. These Americans were being shown paintings unlike anything they had ever seen before, and for those who could really SEE these paintings, they were mesmerized and bought as many as they could afford. I can only imagine, when they returned to America and unboxed some of these lurid beauties with vivid colors that overwhelmed the eye, what reactions they would have received from friends and family. Those paintings might even have left some of the viewers, with a delicate disposition, feeling as if they have been punched in the gut. It is interesting to observe the varied reactions that people have to bold colors before we can even discuss, say, a painting of a woman with three noses. Henri Matisse circa 1891. Sue Roe deftly balances all these diverse personalities who came together in Paris at the turn of the century and she shares these wonderful stories that vividly bring them back to life. The fashion designer Paul Poiret, who was immersed in this dynamic culture, shared a story that has stuck with me long after finishing the book. ”Many years later, Poiret remembered watching Vlaminck and Derain as they trudged along the riverside, forced to move out of their lodgings (their shared studio, presumably) when the landlady grew tired of giving them credit. ‘I can still see them by the flowery banks,’ he reminisced, ‘their boxes of colours under their arms, their canvases piled in a wheelbarrow.’” The book is full of intriguing snapshots, daubed in paint. These brilliant, impoverished painters were just beginning to have an idea that they were part of another renaissance in art. Another one of my favorite vignettes is of a clever, fussy writer : ”Marcel Proust sat quietly at a corner table drinking hot chocolate like a pale-green ghost.” To think of him out in the Montmartre district, observing all that decadent behavior, made me smile. The women of Montmartre were probably some of the most liberated women on the planet in the early 1900s. They were models, lovers, dancers, mistresses, and in many ways their emancipation added fuel to the creative energy of the artists, writers, designers, and buyers who flocked to Montmartre to be inspired. One of the most alluring of these creatures was Fernande Olivier, who caught the eye of many painters, but absolutely captivated Pablo Picasso. ”Here she was now, the beautiful, tall redhead. She seemed languid, aloof, more voluptuous than the girls he was accustomed to, with strong, vivid features and a contrasting aura of lightness. From now on, wherever he went, he kept seeing her.” The rivalry between Matisse and Picasso was one of those necessary driving forces that makes really great artists keep creating masterpieces. They would cringe and look with awe in equal measure whenever they viewed each other’s latest creations. Their relationship was cordial, honest, but sometimes mildly disagreeable. As Francoise Gilot (muse of PIcasso) put it: ”‘In their meetings, the active side was Pablo; the passive, Matisse. Pablo always sought to charm Matisse, like a dancer, but in the end it was Matisse who conquered Pablo.’” There are many great artists of this period; one of my favorites is Amedeo Modigliani, but without a doubt, the names that emerge as champions of the era are Matisse and Picasso. I always find reading about artists so inspirational, even more so than reading about writers. I’m not sure why, except maybe that there is so much more for me to learn about artists. I don’t usually pick up overviews like this, but Sue Roe does such a wonderful job capturing the place and the people with such precise sketches that I am indebted to her for moving the needle of my understanding of the artists and of this era forward in a leap rather than just a bound. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan Liston

    This is a extremely well researched book and there is a ton of information here. I'm slightly perplexed as to why I didn't find it more compelling reading than I did...perhaps it's partly because I just read a biography of Picasso and a lot of this was repetitive, maybe it was because of the way the story jumps from artist to artist a bit too much, maybe because there are hardly any illustrations...eight reproduced paintings and fourteen photos, period, so I constantly was having to resort to th This is a extremely well researched book and there is a ton of information here. I'm slightly perplexed as to why I didn't find it more compelling reading than I did...perhaps it's partly because I just read a biography of Picasso and a lot of this was repetitive, maybe it was because of the way the story jumps from artist to artist a bit too much, maybe because there are hardly any illustrations...eight reproduced paintings and fourteen photos, period, so I constantly was having to resort to the Internet for visual reinforcement...but it is certainly readable and would be a good place to start learning about this period. (keep Internet handy)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Just as I did not want to leave Montmartre when I visited last August, I did not want this book to end. I love biographies that are dedicated to place over person, to capturing a small group of individuals that come to characterise a place and create an unforgettable atmosphere that reverberates through the years. I am a sucker for the story of the starving artist - the elite group of dedicated people who suffer for their art, living in squalor and burning through personal and professional relat Just as I did not want to leave Montmartre when I visited last August, I did not want this book to end. I love biographies that are dedicated to place over person, to capturing a small group of individuals that come to characterise a place and create an unforgettable atmosphere that reverberates through the years. I am a sucker for the story of the starving artist - the elite group of dedicated people who suffer for their art, living in squalor and burning through personal and professional relationships in the name of vision and creation. This book was perfect for me. I did not want a minutely detailed account of any of these artists personal lives. I did not want to know about their childhoods or the intimate details of all their relationships. I was much more interested in their stories in the context of Montmartre and the way that life there shaped their art and allowed them to form their artistic identities. It was an interesting read for someone who knows Montmartre only as the place dubbed the artist district of Paris. My experience was that of one of the many tourists swarming its boulevards over a century after they have all left; I know it only in terms of the residual chaos from the storm they swept up over a hundred years ago. Now, we largely experience Montmartre as a place of tourism; I could only sit in the Place du Tertre as an awed spectator trying to imagine the artistic freedom that is now almost impossible to experience due to the vast number of bodies wielding selfie sticks. Through this biography, I loved being given a glimpse of Montmartre as it was, when creativity was this raw, wild thing that could only be experienced by those willing to truly break themselves down and live in the dirt. It is a rare glimpse of something, sometime, that is impossible to get back due to the celebrity that culminated in the wake of those great artists. I love Montmarte. Even now, even the version that I experienced. There is still an unmistakable artistic energy to be found there and it is my favourite place in the world. But next time I go back I can enjoy it all the more knowing exactly what happened on those sprawling streets, exactly what great art was created behind those closed doors, and the role the place itself played as the inspiration for many of the great works of art we are lucky enough to be able to appreciate today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Sue Roe's story of Pablo Picasso and other artists in the famous Paris quarter. 4* In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse, and the Birth of Modernist Art TBR The Private Lives of the Impressionists From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Sue Roe's story of Pablo Picasso and other artists in the famous Paris quarter. 4* In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse, and the Birth of Modernist Art TBR The Private Lives of the Impressionists

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Book of the Week - August 04 Author Sue Roe account, abridged by Katrin Williams, describes how Pablo Picasso and other artists found this Paris quarter irresistible when arriving in the early 1900's. Reader Stella Gonet Producer Duncan Minshull. (view spoiler)[ 1. He turns up with his Catalan friend Casagemas during the World Fair and quickly feels at home, painting the scene and carousing in such notorious watering holes as the 'Zut'. 2. Picasso must sell his work to survive and he meets up with som Book of the Week - August 04 Author Sue Roe account, abridged by Katrin Williams, describes how Pablo Picasso and other artists found this Paris quarter irresistible when arriving in the early 1900's. Reader Stella Gonet Producer Duncan Minshull. (view spoiler)[ 1. He turns up with his Catalan friend Casagemas during the World Fair and quickly feels at home, painting the scene and carousing in such notorious watering holes as the 'Zut'. 2. Picasso must sell his work to survive and he meets up with some remarkable dealers. Also the alluring Fernande, his new muse and lover. 3. Picasso works in the vicinity of other artists such as Derain and Vlaminck. And also Matisse. The two of them are like chalk and cheese! 4. Picasso travels with Fernande to Spain, which opens the mind to some fantastic possibilities. And one particular picture will cause a stir. 5. Picasso eventually leaves Montmatre for the sedate charms of Clichy. Then author Gertrude Stein sums what Montmartre really means to its artists. (hide spoiler)]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mysteryfan

    I was fortunate to receive an ARC for this book. In 1900 a teenaged Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris. Already there or soon to arrive were Derain, Vlaminck, Rousseau, Leo and Gertrude Stein, Paul Poiret, Diaghilev and of course Henri Matisse. The first decade of the 20th century changed the world for art, cinema, dance and fashion. The author keeps the focus tightly on culture - there isn't much mention of political or scientific events. I learned a great deal about this remarkable decade and the I was fortunate to receive an ARC for this book. In 1900 a teenaged Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris. Already there or soon to arrive were Derain, Vlaminck, Rousseau, Leo and Gertrude Stein, Paul Poiret, Diaghilev and of course Henri Matisse. The first decade of the 20th century changed the world for art, cinema, dance and fashion. The author keeps the focus tightly on culture - there isn't much mention of political or scientific events. I learned a great deal about this remarkable decade and the development of Fauvism, Cubism and Modernism. She makes a persuasive argument that the development of cinema had an important effect on artists of the period. It is well written and interesting.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I'm pretty sure Picasso and Matisse's lives were more enthralling than this biography attempts to depict. I'm pretty sure Picasso and Matisse's lives were more enthralling than this biography attempts to depict.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kirti Upreti

    This book makes you realise how tumultous were the early decades of the 20th century and yet it was the same time that shaped the modern life. The period had the fortune to witness the emergence of some of the greatest minds of all time who not only brought new perspectives but even moved beyond their limitations. Picasso wasn't just a painter. Art was no more restricted to paintings. Matisse wasn't trying to make himself understood. Derain had his own opinions on what being an artist meant. It This book makes you realise how tumultous were the early decades of the 20th century and yet it was the same time that shaped the modern life. The period had the fortune to witness the emergence of some of the greatest minds of all time who not only brought new perspectives but even moved beyond their limitations. Picasso wasn't just a painter. Art was no more restricted to paintings. Matisse wasn't trying to make himself understood. Derain had his own opinions on what being an artist meant. It is a story of some unconventional geniuses gathered together in the streets of Montmartre. There was never a dull moment in the story spanning over a decade and a half. If you are into modern art and art history, then this is a must read for you. However, familiarising yourself with the works of Matisse and Cubism would help you savour the story better. A brief reading of the Art section of the book 'Modernism' by Peter Gay would set you right for the iridescent journey through time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam Tornio

    Roe must have been conscious of the fact that the image of a theatre troupe ‘parade’, which she applies metaphorically to fin de siècle Montmartre, also describes the multivalent rollicking of the prose she uses in writing about it; which, despite its scope and energy—like the cubist weltanschauung she herself calls into question—depends a bit too heavily on suggestive juxtapositions and ambiguous lacunae. Roe is often less than fully in control of this party, making her plethoric narrative less Roe must have been conscious of the fact that the image of a theatre troupe ‘parade’, which she applies metaphorically to fin de siècle Montmartre, also describes the multivalent rollicking of the prose she uses in writing about it; which, despite its scope and energy—like the cubist weltanschauung she herself calls into question—depends a bit too heavily on suggestive juxtapositions and ambiguous lacunae. Roe is often less than fully in control of this party, making her plethoric narrative less a true opening up of her subjects than a convincing mystification.

  11. 5 out of 5

    AC

    4.5 stars. A very “lively” interesting study — more social and biographical than critical — of Matisse and Picasso (and their artistic relationships) from 1900-1910. This focused time span allows Roe to develop her themes in some depth. She is especially good on the period before their financial successes, with fascinating discussions of Montmartre, the Butte, the various personalities, including Fernande and Modigliani, the circuses, early cinema, and the dealers of that time. The final section 4.5 stars. A very “lively” interesting study — more social and biographical than critical — of Matisse and Picasso (and their artistic relationships) from 1900-1910. This focused time span allows Roe to develop her themes in some depth. She is especially good on the period before their financial successes, with fascinating discussions of Montmartre, the Butte, the various personalities, including Fernande and Modigliani, the circuses, early cinema, and the dealers of that time. The final section (IV) on cubism and its aftermath is less enthralling.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    A brilliant and thorough account of the lives and workings of not only the artists of Montmartre, but also the art dealers, collectors and other players of the art scene. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in the interplay between the early modernist painters of Paris, but especially to art teachers looking to distill the history of the era for their students.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maxine Schur

    For all Paris and art lovers this is a must read-- the author takes you into the heart of Montmartre where Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Modigliani and others all swirled around each other at shabby apartments, low-class cafes and of course at Gertrude Stein's. Depicts the rise of all these (and more) scruffy young artists living in Montmartre and working to make their mark on art. For all Paris and art lovers this is a must read-- the author takes you into the heart of Montmartre where Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Modigliani and others all swirled around each other at shabby apartments, low-class cafes and of course at Gertrude Stein's. Depicts the rise of all these (and more) scruffy young artists living in Montmartre and working to make their mark on art.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kevin McAvoy

    Very good descriptions of artists lives, struggles and peeves at the turn of the century. Picasso's bio was very interesting and will lead me to another of his biographies. Very good descriptions of artists lives, struggles and peeves at the turn of the century. Picasso's bio was very interesting and will lead me to another of his biographies.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    I really enjoyed this book. Roe follows the lives of Picasso and Matisse along with other artists, art dealers, collectors, and writers living in Paris just after the turn of the century. They are, needless to say, a colorful group. Roe explores their lives, their loves, their work, and also their environment as she brings the Montmartre of the era to life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liz Estrada

    3.5 stars

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    This is the story of the artists Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Braque, and Vlaminck when they all lived in Montmartre in the first 15 years of the 20th century. Out of this time and place came Fauvism and Cubism and subesquently, Roe argues, the entire modern art movement that would end art as imitation. Aside from the painters, Roe spends a fair amount of time discussing the dealers and collectors who helped build the movement - in particular the Stein family. Roe seems to suggest that these artists This is the story of the artists Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Braque, and Vlaminck when they all lived in Montmartre in the first 15 years of the 20th century. Out of this time and place came Fauvism and Cubism and subesquently, Roe argues, the entire modern art movement that would end art as imitation. Aside from the painters, Roe spends a fair amount of time discussing the dealers and collectors who helped build the movement - in particular the Stein family. Roe seems to suggest that these artists all depended heavily on the patronage of the Steins and a few other collectors, as it was a relatively small circle of people who seemed to buy up all of these paintings. If this is true, the Steins must have had a very strange relationship with, say, Picasso, if they were one of the few hands that fed him. I wish Roe had gotten into more detail over this relationship (or at least provided some economic context for what share of these artists' livelihood came from the Steins). Roe must have had an enormous archive of private letters to work from, as some of the details of the relationships between these artists was surprisingly intimate. I'm guessing that many of these letters were written by the women in these artists' lives, as there is a fair amount of time spent on women who don't really have any historic significance of their own otherwise. I most enjoyed how the biographical details of the artists' lives colored and provided context for the (excellent) art criticism that Roe peppers throughout the book. I've read a few art crit books before, and they are far more economical with biographical details, to their loss. We retain information best when it is presented in a story, and art criticism is no different. Roe frequently finds lessons in the lives of her subjects: Matisse was the long suffering artist who found success late in life after years of struggle and deftly capitalized on it. Derain was a brilliant and confident creater who suffered from not exploring beyond his first great discovery (fauvism). Picasso was uncompromising and antagonistic and seemed to suceed by pure force of personality. "Cubism was the great divider. Artistically, it set Picasso apart from Derain, Vlaminck and others." Fantastic line by Gertrude Stein: Some... spend all their living struggling to adjust the being that slowly comes to active stirring in them to the aspirations they had in them, some want to create their aspirations from the being in them and they have not the courage in them. It is a wonderful thing how much courage it takes even to buy a clock you are very much liking when it is a kind of one every one thinks only a servant should be owning. It is very wonderful how much courage it takes to buy bright coloured handkerchiefs when every one having good taste uses white ones or pale couloured ones, when a bright coloured on egives you so much pleasure you suffer always at not having them. It is very hard to have the courage of your being in you, in clocks, in handkerchiefs, in aspirations, in liking things that are low, in anything. Random stuff: - Picasso smoked a lot of opium, carried a gun around that he would fire to scare people off (many people who lived in Montmartre carried guns), and carried around all of his cash in his pockets, as he didn't trust banks. He would spend several evenings a night at the circus during his Rose period - Derain's lessons from painting in Collioure: "a new conception of light which consists of the negation of shadow. He had noticed that when sunlight is very strong, shadows are not darker, but, on the contrary, very pale. That observation had made him think about shadow: a whole world of luminosity, shielded by the brightness of the sun, which lengthens shadow and converts it into refelctions" -Vlaminck's "discovery" of african art -These artists felt their appropriation of African art was a natural progression from their interest of the circus acrobats and clowns in Montmartre "an attempt to liberate in paint unmediated human feeling. Primal. Totemic. Profoundly expressive depictions of what it really means to be human." -"[Picasso's] purchasers would always be friends, or private collectors who exhibited his work in their own private salons, rather than in public exhibitions. He hated negotiating..." -"David Hockney would later note that Picasso and Braque saw the flaw in photography. That the act of looking from more than one viewpoint creates problems of time as well as space. Because there is not enough time within a single photograph to perceive the space being depicted, the photograph is rendered essentially static." -Picasso called Cezanne his one and only master -Modigliani wrote: "What I am searching for is neither the real nor the unreal, but the Subconscious, the mystery of what is Instinctive in the human Race." Roe responds: "The new goal for the modern artist was to find ways of expressing the interior life. In their own way, Picasso and Matisse, Derain and Vlaminck, Diaghilev and Poiret, Marie Laurencin and Gertrude Stein were all by now engaged in this quest." -Picasso showed Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to his friends and then hid it for 16 years -(regarding Picasso and Braque's Cubism) "In their paintings of this period, the forms of objects no longer obeyed previous pictorial rules. Forms were insteadjuxtaposed and repeated and light sources obscured or made subject to variation in what appeared to be a kind of double exposure on canvas in which forms were enfolded or concertina'd. This made the fan a particularly condisve, even symbolic, object within Cubist painting. Picasso often introduced this item into his cubist portraits; in one of his first of Fernande she is seated with a half-open fan. For Picasso and Braque, what came to be called cubism fundamentally depeneded on drastically different ways of thinkgin about perspective. Since sutdying the landscape of L'Estque, Braque had abandoned traditional perspective, which now seemed to him too mechanical: 'It has its originas in a single viewpoint and never gets away from it.' A fixed viewpoint assumed that the eye of the viewer was still, whereas cubism acknowledge that the eye moved constantly in the act of looking. Scientific perspective, by this account, was a kind of illusion, which prevented the artist from conveying what Braque called 'a full experience of space', since 'it forces the objects in a picture to disappear away from the beholder instead of bringing them within his reach, as a painting should.' -"As Cocteau later saw it, Picasso never lectured, he never dissected the doves which flew out from his sleeves. He was satisfied with painting, acquiring an incomparible technique and putting it in the service of chance."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I picked up "In Montmartre..." to prepare for an upcoming trip to Paris, where we will be staying in a Montmartre hotel. I wanted to get a better appreciation for the area's history, but found the book to be an interesting look at the early days of 20th century art. All my life I have been looking at paintings by Picasso, Matisse, et. al., but never thought much about how they broke with the past and created a new way of making and thinking about art. My interpretation and paraphrase of this new I picked up "In Montmartre..." to prepare for an upcoming trip to Paris, where we will be staying in a Montmartre hotel. I wanted to get a better appreciation for the area's history, but found the book to be an interesting look at the early days of 20th century art. All my life I have been looking at paintings by Picasso, Matisse, et. al., but never thought much about how they broke with the past and created a new way of making and thinking about art. My interpretation and paraphrase of this new idea is that a work of art is not "about" something else; it is a "thing" in its own right. The book begins a bit disjointedly and takes a few chapters to get itself together to tell a coherent story, but soon enough the cast of characters becomes familiar and the artistic developments take on the most important role. There are a few color plates of painting, and photos of the characters, but I found myself consulting my computer for images of paintings as they were mentioned. The book would be better if it included a map of Montmartre showing the important sites mentioned in the story, and a list of the artists and other important people in it. Follow up comments: after visiting Paris I really appreciate this book. I felt like I knew the background for so many places and things I saw and read about. I highly recommend it for anyone planning a trip to see art in Paris.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Ferry

    Interesting. This was not the quickest read, though I must confess I rarely got the time to really throw myself into the book. The manner in which Sue Roe worked the various artists, designers, collectors, writers and peripheral figures together in her work was impressive. This is a very large and illustrious cast and one of the challenges as a reader is to remain invested as we flit from one group on Montmartre to another. Obviously it helps that most of these characters are so well known, but Interesting. This was not the quickest read, though I must confess I rarely got the time to really throw myself into the book. The manner in which Sue Roe worked the various artists, designers, collectors, writers and peripheral figures together in her work was impressive. This is a very large and illustrious cast and one of the challenges as a reader is to remain invested as we flit from one group on Montmartre to another. Obviously it helps that most of these characters are so well known, but I found myself constantly reaching for art reference to see pictures of the paintings referenced in the text. There are a dozen or so illustrations in the book to provide reference for some of the major pieces as well as another dozen or so photos of some the major characters, but I found I had to get a visual for many others to satisfy my own curiosity. This certainly slowed down my reading progress, but I hope led to a deeper appreciation of the work resulting from this blending of remarkable talents and frankly I could not stop myself.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Tattersall

    Steve Martin deserves the blame for me reading this book. It was as a result of playing someone impersonating Elvis in his play Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays that I gained an interest in the developments in modern art in this period. It is a well researched, sometimes well written, account of the first decade of the last century and the developments in art in Paris. The authors view is that it was this decade, rather than the more commonly asserted subsequent decade, which saw the b Steve Martin deserves the blame for me reading this book. It was as a result of playing someone impersonating Elvis in his play Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays that I gained an interest in the developments in modern art in this period. It is a well researched, sometimes well written, account of the first decade of the last century and the developments in art in Paris. The authors view is that it was this decade, rather than the more commonly asserted subsequent decade, which saw the birth and origin of the modern art movement. It's a case she makes well though I would like to read a counter case before coming to a conclusion. Paris at the epoch is well brought to life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    This is so well written. It's dreamy and absorbing, and so well researched. It's incredibly painful to read this as a creative woman. Roe has no anachronistic axe to grind about the treatment and life-chances of women in turn-of-the-century France. She's just telling the stories of the artists without deleting the women from them. Unusual for these figures and this period. Empathizing with the women in this history is a radically different experience from empathizing with the men, even though Roe This is so well written. It's dreamy and absorbing, and so well researched. It's incredibly painful to read this as a creative woman. Roe has no anachronistic axe to grind about the treatment and life-chances of women in turn-of-the-century France. She's just telling the stories of the artists without deleting the women from them. Unusual for these figures and this period. Empathizing with the women in this history is a radically different experience from empathizing with the men, even though Roe doesn't ask you to do this. It was just my choice in the way-of-reading and it had a huge effect on me as a creative person. Despite that learning experience in perspective-taking, I relished this read. Roe's fascination in each character shines through and brings the whole time and place so alive. Very highly recommended for any visit to Paris.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Bergman Carlin

    Art historians will probably love it. I was disappointed by the lack of narrative arc, however. Seemed like there was potential for it to be more. Instead it read like a scene-by-scene summary of life for Picasso and Matisse from 1900-1911. The best parts of the book involved Gertrude Stein and her patronage of the arts. Like I said, those with a passion for straight-up art history will probably love it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Green

    There were parts where the digressions were too large, often at the expense of art writing, which was a little frustrating. However, it's a great overview of the period and remains incredible readable even as the ideology behind modernism is tackled. There were parts where the digressions were too large, often at the expense of art writing, which was a little frustrating. However, it's a great overview of the period and remains incredible readable even as the ideology behind modernism is tackled.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    Good overview of the period, but I really wanted to get inside Picasso’s head and understand the reasons for the changes in his art in that period and felt disappointed that this never really came out. It was readable, but lacked depth and never actually got me excited.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Martina

    The very first impression over the first 32 pages of this book is — the author is really in love with the subject she is writing about. And you get swept along, sharing her enthusiasm, indulging in her vivid descriptions of things she can’t possible know anything about with certainty but which all might have as well happened the way she describes them. This isn’t advertised as a fiction book, therefore, you expect a certain level of credibility from it and you trust the author, having no reason The very first impression over the first 32 pages of this book is — the author is really in love with the subject she is writing about. And you get swept along, sharing her enthusiasm, indulging in her vivid descriptions of things she can’t possible know anything about with certainty but which all might have as well happened the way she describes them. This isn’t advertised as a fiction book, therefore, you expect a certain level of credibility from it and you trust the author, having no reason whatsoever to suspect wether or not she has done her research and homework for this book. Why wouldn’t she? A lot of love went into writing of this book. A type of love that makes you giggle a bit and immediately like the author. Almost as much love as a very naive and romantically inclined teenager feels towards her first love. The type, the amount and the kind of love that inevitably also makes you do things you’ll later not be very proud of. And so, on the page 33, second paragraph, the first serious glitch happens. Introducing Vollard to the reader, and masterfully preparing the story for the grand emergence of Picasso, Sue Roe writes: “To celebrate the opening of his new gallery he [Vollard] was planing a second show of van Gogh’s work — for which he had acquired more than sixty paintings from the artist’s studio in Amsterdam, together with a large number of watercolours and drawings — to be held in February.” This is a book entitled “In Montmartre”, clearly stating that it is about “Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris 1900 - 1910” and advertised in Guardian and other very reliable papers as “A group biography that manages not to miss any steps.”. Clearly it isn’t a fiction book and why shouldn’t you believe the Guardian and The Times? Therefore, let’s be fair to the author and see that she actually doesn’t necessary have to know anything about van Gogh, a painter of an earlier generation who passed away about a decade before the start of her book. It would be nice if she knew, especially as she few pages further tries to establish a connection of influence between van Gogh and several painters she actually is writing the book about, but she doesn’t really need to know anything about the whereabouts of van Gogh's paintings “at the start of 1901”. She doesn’t need to have any clue whether or not there ever was anything even remotely resembling a studio of van Gogh in Amsterdam, where his paintings were in 1901 or where from, at that time, and from whom an art dealer in Paris could have acquired paintings by van Gogh. Even if the dealer is as prominent and as for her book as crucial as Vollard, she still can be forgiven for this small and let’s be honest not very important — at least not important for her book — and even not very unambiguous glitch. And although a tiny residue of a slightly bitter taste now stays somewhere around the edges of your trust in the authors credibility about the things with wich you are not so elaborately familiar about, you decide to anyway keep trusting her. After all, this really is a very enjoyable, gay and very easily readable text. It was a glitch. It can happen to anyone, so you smile and you happily continue enjoying the author’s virtuosity and her very vivid imagination over the following 40ish pages. Until on the page 76 you discover that she is not familiar with the name of her main character. And this time it isn’t a glitch. This time, it unfortunately is just simply lack of basic knowledge and the final reason to close the book and not read another word of it, because this time she unfortunately hasn’t left any space at all for you, the reader, to somehow excuse, justify, defend or sympathise with the author's lack of knowledge of the subject she is writing about. Page 76, paragraph two: “Picasso also showed them some of his earlier works; these were signed Pablo Ruiz (Ruiz was his mother’s maiden name).” 🤷‍♀️ I am very sorry that I have noticed it, but how possibly can this be excused or explained? If you can’t trust an author of a book to know the name of her main protagonist, and if the protagonist is as famous as Pablo Picasso, and if the facts of his name and of the change of his surname from Ruiz, which was his birth name, to Picasso, which was his mothers maiden name, are not only so important for the interpretation of the biography of a painter but also so unquestionably well documented, commented and explained as in the case of Pablo Picasso by Picasso himself — how can you trust anything else in this book? It really is a pity. Maybe this are the only two seriously false facts in the entire book. Or maybe the book teems with false information although it isn’t sold as a fiction book… You’ll know only by doing your own research or by simply reading a plethora of other more reliable books on the same subject. Happy reading! love, m

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I first read Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of Impressionists which I enjoyed immensely, but In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and The Birth of Modernist Art not nearly as much. Though it was interesting to read about Picasso and Matisse’s time in France between 1900 and 1907—their lives, relationships and their work. But the story I found, jumped around between people and time periods resulting in a frequently disjointed story. Yet despite this shortcoming, it’s a good read. The book is well-researc I first read Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of Impressionists which I enjoyed immensely, but In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and The Birth of Modernist Art not nearly as much. Though it was interesting to read about Picasso and Matisse’s time in France between 1900 and 1907—their lives, relationships and their work. But the story I found, jumped around between people and time periods resulting in a frequently disjointed story. Yet despite this shortcoming, it’s a good read. The book is well-researched. Roe goes into great detail about the culture in France during the time period of early 1900s—cultural movements that worked in parallel to the artists, and some that influenced them. Roe writes of poetry, ballet, fashion design, photography and film in addition to the great number of art works created (there are a handful of photographs in the book). Chapter three in Part II is devoted to ‘motion pictures’ with a discussion on photography as well, a major movement that coincided with film. Yet it was photography that perplexed Picasso and his fellow artists, given its problem with ‘time and space and its static, one-perspective viewpoint’ (page 195), which we can assume contrasted to their art which provided more depth and perspective. What I appreciated about Roe’s research is her inclusion of the art collectors and dealers that the artists worked with. Many of which had an impact on the artists, not only in terms of resources given the collectors and dealers provided the artists with a living (though meager in some cases), but in terms of influences on their works, ideas for artworks and emotional support. The Stein family for one, was very influential in the art world, Gertrude Stein in particular was a friend of Picasso’s as well as a patron of his (and Matisse’s) art. Picasso and Gloria were apparently quite good friends despite the language barrier. He painted a portrait of Ms. Stein when she lived in Paris. Another person of influence was the Russian collector and arts patron Sergei Diaghilev, who admired what the artists were creating in France during this time period. Diaghilev was involved in ballet stage production and looked to the artists of Montmartre for inspiration with set designs and costumes. Diaghilev appointed Picasso, Matisse and Derain as costume and set designers to create for the time period, ‘radical’ set designs and costumes. After reading In Montmartre, I realized how art movements are influenced by a variety of factors, frequently just ‘happen’ and aren’t recognized as significant until well after the fact. Cubism for instance which Picasso is most often associated with, is a term labeled by Matisse when he was describing a work of Braque who had emphasized roofs in one of his paintings by using geometric angles. Picasso nor Braque, were pleased with the term, stating that ‘we simply wanted to express what was in us’.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brenden Gallagher

    I liked the idea of this book more than its execution. I have long been fascinated by particular neighborhoods at particular times that yield extreme artistic output. Whether it is Brooklyn in 2004, Los Angeles in the late 60s, or Paris in the early 1900s, I think that such situations are inspiring and instructive. I have often wished I had come up as an artist in such a time and place. The problem with "In Montmartre" is it ambitiously attempts to tackle a lot at once and ends up not quite achiev I liked the idea of this book more than its execution. I have long been fascinated by particular neighborhoods at particular times that yield extreme artistic output. Whether it is Brooklyn in 2004, Los Angeles in the late 60s, or Paris in the early 1900s, I think that such situations are inspiring and instructive. I have often wished I had come up as an artist in such a time and place. The problem with "In Montmartre" is it ambitiously attempts to tackle a lot at once and ends up not quite achieving its goals. Not only does Sue Roe attempt a detailed description and analysis of the neighborhood that incubated Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, and many more immortal artists, but she also tries to pack a few other books into this one. This is also a book about the rivalry between Picasso and Matisse. It is also about the aesthetic evolution of modernism. It is also the story of Picasso's first marriage. It is also about the emergence of Stein as a artistic kingmaker. I found myself wishing for more focus throughout the text. For me, the most interesting moments were the details of the businesses and people who aren't famous today, yet were essential in creating the ecosystem these artists thrived in. No person is an island, and this is incredibly true in art. The bars, galleries, and characters that surrounded the artists of the era are so fascinating, vital, and unsung as history echoes through the years. Perhaps "In Montmartre" reads better than it is to listen to. I listened to the audiobook, and I could see what feels scattered and unfocused in audio form becoming nuanced and lyrical on the page. But, for me the book tried too much and fell short in most of its aims. In particular, I think the book glosses over Picasso's many faults, especially when it comes to women. If the book had been just about Montmartre and not Picasso in particular, that may be forgivable. But for a book that spends so much time on Picasso's personal and sex life, this starts to feel like apologetics rather than something that was cut for time. Sometimes wonderful subjects don't make for wonderful books. While for much of "In Monmartre" I was captivated by the lovely, dirty, inspiring neighborhood it takes as its subject, just as often I found this book overwhelmed by the beauty and power of what it was trying to write about. Perhaps some subjects are too good to yield a good book. Montmartre might be one of them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tony Wainaina

    In Montmartre was given to me as a Christmas gift in December 2015 by my dearest daughter Wambui. At first reading I ploughed through the book, consuming it as I would a work of fiction, and eventually ground to a halt after the first 100 or so pages. As much as the subject matter interested me, there was just too much detail to absorb, and I ended up glossing over this detail, failing to establish and maintain the thread of the storyline. I picked up In Montmartre again just over 5 years later, In Montmartre was given to me as a Christmas gift in December 2015 by my dearest daughter Wambui. At first reading I ploughed through the book, consuming it as I would a work of fiction, and eventually ground to a halt after the first 100 or so pages. As much as the subject matter interested me, there was just too much detail to absorb, and I ended up glossing over this detail, failing to establish and maintain the thread of the storyline. I picked up In Montmartre again just over 5 years later, on the 20th of March 2020 - this time determined to  really 'read' and internalise the book. I took copious notes, reading the book as if I was studying for an art history exam - and it what a difference this approach made!! This is probably the most profound, best written book I have come across on art history. I felt like I was one of the residents in Montmarte, observing this historic birth and evolution of modernist art unfold during the first decade of the 20th century. As Sue summarises at the very end of the book - "The struggles of a few dedicated, near-destitute artists working in the broken-down shacks and hovels of rural Montmartre seemed to have created the foundations for the wider arena of modern art." My understanding of the meaning of art has been profoundly altered by In Montmartre. I understand the interdependence across the different genre artists and art forms; and how this interdependence is so central to nurturing each artist's and each art form's growth. "Like a cubist painting, the suggestive rapports of Gertrude Stein's writing, or the new medium of narrative cinema composed in successive frames, Petrushka (a folkloric ballet that told the story of three puppets) celebrated the eclectic, nuanced vision and method of radical  juxtaposition now emerging across all the arts." I've often heard abut the influence on African tribal sculpture on Picasso's evolution, but I now understand how monumentally this exposure influenced his transformation from Impressionism to Cubism - or as we are made to understanding from the book - "Picasso saw his new way of painting as a method of uncovering forms that was unnameable - nothing really to do with cubes."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    This book sat on my nightstand for over a year, maybe two. There just always seemed to be something else that needed to be read first. Yet, last month I jumped in and found Roe’s book to be engrossing. The text meanders through the first decade of the 20th century revealing little gems of the development of Early Modernism. I appreciate the style of Roe’s writing and how she circles back again and again to add more information to the complex interrelatedness of the likes of Derain, Picasso, Mati This book sat on my nightstand for over a year, maybe two. There just always seemed to be something else that needed to be read first. Yet, last month I jumped in and found Roe’s book to be engrossing. The text meanders through the first decade of the 20th century revealing little gems of the development of Early Modernism. I appreciate the style of Roe’s writing and how she circles back again and again to add more information to the complex interrelatedness of the likes of Derain, Picasso, Matisse, Braque and others. It was odd to see the story unfold. I wonder why there isn’t already a good film about 1900-10 Montmartre. With all the drama, interpersonal dynamics, international investors and hungry young upstarts, what Roe presents could easily be scripted into a movie. There are many points that I will use from this book when talking to students about Early Modernism in France. Yet I found the following quotes poignant. “By 1907, techniques had developed to incorporate moving shots, close-ups, reversals and altered or transformed objects. The image in art was being destabilized by this new medium. Unlike the spectator at the theatre or the cabaret, the camera eye could change position, altering whatever was being looked at from one moment to the next.” P193 “… the real showstopper of 1910 was Scheherazade, with music by Rimsky-Korsakov, exotic sets and sensual dance moves such as had never before been seen on the public stage” P286 “On 16 May 1910, almost exactly a year after the debut performances by the Ballet Russes, all Paris turned out to watch the sky. Huddled on balconies and terraces in a state of nervous anticipation, everyone was waiting for the appearance the following night of Halley’s Comet, an event which the superstitious—that is, many—believed would mean the end of the world.” P289

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anders

    I enjoyed this a lot. As a biography, it's very readable. While it uses intricate details of primary sources--letters, journals, etc.--, it's never cumbersome. If anything, I thought it was a bit light on substance, but I can't judge a book too hard for being readable and this one still does a good job with its subject. Its short chapters begin as snapshots of the times. In fact, at the beginning I was a bit bored because it didn't get to Picasso. However, shortly, it wasn't hard to get involved I enjoyed this a lot. As a biography, it's very readable. While it uses intricate details of primary sources--letters, journals, etc.--, it's never cumbersome. If anything, I thought it was a bit light on substance, but I can't judge a book too hard for being readable and this one still does a good job with its subject. Its short chapters begin as snapshots of the times. In fact, at the beginning I was a bit bored because it didn't get to Picasso. However, shortly, it wasn't hard to get involved in how he and Matisse would emerge from the Paris art scene, tracking their various influences and the people in their circles. I particularly enjoyed quotations where the artists explained part of their approach to painting and there are representative snippets from Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, and some other artists I was less familiar with but I learned their significance to, as the book says, the birth of Modernist art, like the fauvists-Derain and Vlaminck. The lives of the artists are packaged in a neat narrative that has no particular tension except the squabbles and dramas that one person might have with another; Matisse was particularly sensitive. And some famous debates are touched on, like the origin of synthetic cubism (Braque or Picasso) or Matisse and Picasso's "feud." So yeah, definitely worth a read if you're interested in Picasso and Matisse, not to mention the Fauvists, but Braque, Modigliani, among others. I love a good book that tracks the conceptual thread of some historical thing or another. While I would say in the realm of art I favor either the impressionists/post-impressionists or the abstract expressionists both before and after these modernists, but I still, having seen so many of these very famous early 20th century paintings, loved reading about them and doubly appreciated the sociohistorical context.

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