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In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the…

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

by Sue Roe

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Wonderful, colourful book about the second coming of Paris as the centre of avant garde art. Between 1900 and 1910, artists of the calibre of Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque, Vlaminck and hangers-on like,Max Jacob, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas swirled around the decaying shacks and ramshackle windmills of Montmartre. The narrative is centred around the competition between the borgeouis family man Matisse and the womanizing vagabond Picasso, bit in actual fact Picasso's much more interesting lifestyle receives more attention than Matisse's button-down mojo. Picasso's life in his ramshackle, messy garret, where he domiciled with his mistress Fernande Olivier, who was determined to live a completely idle lifestyle, is described in intimate detail. Meanwhile he moves through his Blue Period, to the little-known Rose Period, through African-inspired art to the beginnings of Cubism. You will rarely find a better description of avant garde Paris, the meticulous description of the places and the people is wonderful. ( )
  drmaf | Jan 27, 2016 |
Gertrude Stein: "But it doesn’t look like me."
Picasso: “It will.”
- on viewing the Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906)

Sue Roe’s “In Montmartre” is a terrific introduction to not only the art world but also to other parts of Paris life and culture from 1900 to 1910. It centres around Henri Matisse (then in his 30’s) and Pablo Picasso (then in his 20’s) with alternating chapters, which include contacts with other painters but also models, gallery owners and art collectors esp. Leo and Gertrude Stein.

The book is full of anecdotes and trivia about not only artists and paintings but such things as the handmade sandals by Raymond Duncan (brother of Isadora) which were the favoured footware of the Steins, the beginnings of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes with Vaslav Nijinsky, the notorious Bal des Quat'z'Arts etc.

The number of illustrations in the hard-copy edition is limited so you really can get by with an eBook or even an audiobook edition (as I did) and search for larger photos of the paintings in other books or via the web.

If an art history/biography can be judged by how much it makes you want to see more of the paintings discussed, then “In Montmartre” is a total success.

For follow-up:
Picasso’s model and companion (from 1904 to 1912) Fernande Olivier also wrote about these years in her “Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier”.
John Richardson’s massive “A Life of Picasso”, esp. "A Life of Picasso, Vol. 1: The Prodigy, 1881-1906" ( )
1 vote alanteder | Jan 25, 2016 |
Susan Roe's "In Montmarte" is an extraordinary mix of biography, art history and history. In a style that is subtle and erudite yet extremely accessible and entertaining she explains how and why Modernism was invented in what was a ramshackle hill district in Paris. This is the most enjoyable and smartest book I have read on the subject. Roe is that rare writer that knows everything about her subject yet chooses only the most prescient details, always with the intent of providing her reader with a choice nugget and never with the aim of showing off. ( )
  byebyelibrary | Nov 21, 2015 |
a very nice history about the art world in Paris from 1900 to ww1; she writes about the personal life of the major characters in paris at that time. certainly one of the more storylines is the relationship between Picasso and Matisse. Matisse was 10 years older then Picasso and Matisse had a different set of values then Picasso. When they first meet at one of Gertrude Stein's dinner Matisse was becoming successful Picasso was still an unknown. both respected each other's work but both believed there own work was better. there was both tension and appreciation of each other. The book shows how the Stein's became a huge influence in the art world. First it was Leo, he brought Matisse to the US, then it was Gertrude, she brought Picasso to the world. ( )
  michaelbartley | Aug 14, 2015 |
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