The main reason to visit this small museum is to get an inkling of what Montmartre really was like back in the days when Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and others were painting and cavorting up here on the butte. While there are few examples of the artists’ works here, plenty of photos, posters, and even films document the neighborhood’s famous history, from the days when its importance was mainly religious to the glory days of the Paris Commune, and finally to the artistic boom in the 19th and 20th centuries. Next to an original poster of Jane Avril by Toulouse-Lautrec, for example, you’ll see a photo of the real Jane Avril, as well as other Montmartre cabaret legends like Aristide Bruant and La Goulue. The few paintings and drawings by famed painters like Utrillo and Modigliani are supplemented by works by lesser-known Montmartrois, like Steinlen, Léandre, and de Belay. The 17th-century house that shelters the museum was at various times home of Auguste Renoir and Raoul Dufy, as well as Susan Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo, whose studio can now be visited. Surrounded by gardens and greenery, the site offers a lovely view of the last scrap of the Montmartre vineyard. English-language audioguides are a big help here. On a sunny day, stop for coffee in the garden cafe—it’s a heavenly setting.
- Anna Brooke