Paris...à pied, les yeux ouverts, le nez en l'air
ou l'architecture dans tous ses détails

AROUND PARC DE MONTSOURIS

 

         

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    Starting point

    The most convenient place is the Cité Universitaire station which is a notable example of art déco and has recently been restored. It was built in 1932 to provide a direct link to the Sorbonne and other  Paris universities (all located in the Latin Quarter at this time) for  resident students of the newly built Cité Universitaire internationale de Paris (this is made up of  national pavilions on a campus) on the site of the fortifications of 1840 which were demolished in the 1920s.

    Roughly two hours' walk.

    Plan/Map

     

    From the station, turn left and make for rue de la Cité Universitaire and rue Gazan

    N°3 rue de la Cité Universitaire is a studio block designed by Michel Roux-Spitz in 1930 with fine black-and-white mosaic work; n°43 rue Gazan (corner of rue Liard and overlooking the now disused railway of the "Petite Ceinture") is a fine example of buildings in brick and concrete dated 1933; n°21 is a studio block by de Saint Maurice dated 1930 and n°13bis another studio block which is a late 20th century art déco pastiche; n°20 (now a restaurant) is attributed to Davioux and dated 1880.

    N°3 impasse Reille is a fine example of post-1850 industrial architecture recently restored. Avenue Reille (corner of avenue de la Sibelle), you can see traces of a Roman aqueduct; much later, another one was built by Queen Marie de Medicis (King Henri IV 's widow) between 1613 and 1634 to supply the Luxembourg Palace (today the French Senate), private individuals who were rich enough to pay for being connected and public fountains.

     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

    The Park, from avenue Reille to boulevard Jourdan

    Baron Haussmann was "Préfet" for the Seine department from 1853 to 1870;  an important feature of his plans for a re-designed Paris was the provision of large open spaces to the north (Buttes Chaumont), east (Bois de Vincennes), west (Bois de Boulogne) and south (Montsouris). This became possible once the villages beyond the fortifications (built in 1840) had been incorporated into the city. (see From A to Z/ enceintes and octroi)

    Montsouris is the biggest landscaped area in southern Paris and covers 16 hectares. It was engineered by Alphand in 1865 and completed in 1878. The land was very uneven and scarred by quarries and railway lines: the "ligne de Sceaux", now the RER B, and the "Petite Ceinture" which circled the city and is now disused. At today's values, it would have cost €4.25 million, which was quite a huge amount at that time. Rather than opt for a formal French garden, a more English look was favoured. This meant installing statues and follies some of which are attributed to Davioud, architect of both the theatres at Châtelet as well as the St Michel and Observatoire fountains.

    Among its other features are: a puppet theatre, a weather observation station, the south Paris meridian marker (the north marker is in Montmartre on a private ground), and a lake which is said to have emptied itself on the day of the opening ceremony of the Park.

     

     

    The west side

    The 1920s saw considerable development to the west of the park. The village-like setting and the closeness to Montparnasse were particularly attractive to artists.

    At the corner of rue Emile Deutsch de La Meurthe and boulevard Jourdan stands an attractive art nouveau house.

    Impasse Nansouty: at n°9, look at two carved signs for a painter's and sculptor's studios; at the far end of the cul-de-sac (n°1) is a rather dilapidated art déco villa (renovated in 2012/2013).

    Villa du Parc de Montsouris: the concrete building on the corner is typically late 1920s; n°3 was the home of a glass-worker; fine artist's studio at n°5 and bas-reliefs at n°2 and a huge 1900 villa at the end of the cul-de-sac.

    Rue du Parc de Montsouris: the houses here are a charming mixture of contrasting styles; n°8, built around 1900, was the home of Michel Morphy, a once-popular author of suggestive fin-de-siècle novels with saucy titles (les mystères de la pornographie cléricale in 1884, une nuit de noces in 1886, première nuit de noces in 1898).

    The rue Georges Braque (formerly rue du Douanier): the street was laid out in 1927  by architecte Zielensky who lived at n°8; n°2 was built by André Lurçat for the Swiss painter Walter Guggenbülh (much altered); n°6 was designed by Auguste Perret, a pioneer in the use of concrete, for the painter  Georges Braque who lived there from 1927 until his death in 1963; n°7 was the studio (1929) of Reist;  n°5 (where the painter André Derain lived for a while) and n°9 (where the chinese artist Oui lived) were designed by Raymond Fischer. The American writer E. E. Cummings lived there.

    The rue du Square de Montsouris:  most of the  62 villas were designed in 1923 by Jacques Bonnier; the exceptions include n°1 by Auguste Perret for the art collector Pierre Gault,  n°6 by G. Buisson, n°42 by J. Déchelette and n° 53 avenue Reille by Le Corbusier for the painter Amédée Ozenfant who also had a hand in the design (somewhat altered since); Foujita lived for a while at n°3 and decorated it with furniture bought from the the novelist  Georges Simenon.

     

    The Reservoirs and beyond

    The reservoirs cover an area of roughly 4 hectares and replaced two much earlier reservoirs; they were built by the engineer Belgrand between 1867 and 1874. Together they hold 220,000 cubic meters of water which is kept at a constanr temperature by grass covered banks. The studio building by Déchelette at 55 avenue Reille is in "paquebot" (ocean liner) style. N°9 rue Paul Fort, n°3 rue Beaunier with its unusual brickwork and fine art deco n°3 rue Regnier are worth seeing. 

     

     

     

    Villa Seurat and around

    This cul-de-sac and the adjoining n°101bis rue de la Tombe Issoire were mainly designed in the 1920s by André Lurçat for various writers, painters and sculptors: n°3 for the painters Edouard Goerg and Marcel Gromaire, n°4 for his brother the painter Jean Lurçat, n°5 for the painter Pierre Bertrand, n°8 for a Miss Quillé, n°9 for the painter Marcelle Bertrand and n°11 for the sculptor Arnold Huggler;  n°1bis was designed by the architect Moreux for the sculptor Robert Couturier; n°7 was designed by the architecte Richter as well as n°7bis by Auguste Perret  for the sculptor Chana Orloff; sculptor Emile Bachelet lived at n°6; writers Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller (who lived at n°18 where he wrote both "Tropic of Cancer" and "Tropic of Capricorn") as well as the painters Kiyoshi Hasegawa, Chaïm Soutine and Salvador Dali lived in villa Seurat for a time.
    At n°2 rue Gauguet is a former printing works now flats and n°5 and n°7 are studios (by Zielenski) which were, temporarily, home to the painters Hans Hartung and Nicolas de Staël. Altogether, a very artistic neighbourhood! 

     

    The north side

    One side (odd numbers) of avenue René Coty was developped in the 1990s. N°50 avenue René Coty was designed by the architect Jean Launay in 1929 in conjunction with the painter Jean-Julien Lemordant who was left practically blind after being wounded in the Great War andthis meant using models rather than blue-prints (more about the villa at its website: http://villa-atelier-montsouris.com) . 50 rue Dareau has an unsual zinc façade. N° 9 - 11 rue Hallé are good examples of how a very ordinary frontage can be livened up with modest means. The itinerary ends at Denfert-Rochereau with a glimpse of the 17th century aqueduct, the 18th century Hospice de La Rochefoucauld and the pavilions by Ledoux which were one of the gates of Paris until 1860. Opera-lovers may recognize this as the setting for Act 2 of Puccini's La Bohème.

     

     

    Some of the artists associated with these streets

    Emile Bachelet sculptor (1892-1981), Georges Braque painter (1882-1963), Robert Couturier sculptor (1905-2008), Salvador Dali (1904-1989), André Derain (1880-1954 who lived in rue Georges Braque) and Léonard Foujita (1886-1968 who lived in rue du square Montsouris) painters known as "Montparnos",  Edouard Goerg painter (1893-1969) who studied side by side with Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier at "Académie Ranson", Marcel Gromaire (1892-1971) painter, Walter Guggenbühl painter, Arnold Huggler painter (1894-1988), Jean-Julien Lemordant (1878-1968) painter, Jean Lurçat painter (1892-1966) who revitalised Aubusson tapestry making, Chana Orloff sculptor (1888-1968) , Amédée Ozenfant and Chaïm Soutine, painters; the art collector Pierre Gault; and Dessertennes (today Sennelier) avenue René Coty supplier of brushes, paints and canvasses. 
    Michel Morphy (1863-1928) novelist, Henry Miller writer (1891-1980) who was tried for obscenity in the U.S.A. in 1934 when "Tropic of Cancer" was published and Anaïs Nin (1903-1977), another "daring" writer who was his mistress.

     

     

     

    And to round off your tour

    See Itineraries  / Paris University halls of residence

                              Artists' studios in Montparnasse