After spending the morning exploring the Cimetiére du Montparnasse, I proceeded to explore the streets of Montparnasse, both to get a feel for the area and to find some lunch. Most of the Montparnasse neighborhood seemed to be low 2-3 story buildings with a lot of ground floor shops and restaurants, and as I quickly saw, an area with a decent concentration of street art and graffiti.
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Montparnasse has some interesting history … it’s located on the left bank of the river Seine, and is considered part of the 14th arrondissement. Montparnasse became known as an artistic center in Paris in the early years of the 20th Century. Starting around 1910 and continuing for the following 20+ years, the artistic circles of Paris shifted from Montmartre to Montparnasse, due to the relatively cheap rents for unheated studio space. It became such a well-known hotbed of artistic activity, that artists came from around the world to live and work in Montparnasse.
Some of the names that congregated in the area at that time reads like a “who’s who” list of art history: Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Diego Rivera, Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dali, and Joan Miro, among others. But it wasn’t just artists, the locals included such literary giants as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett, to name a few.
While I wouldn’t describe Montparnasse today as “gritty” or “low rent” by any stretch, it’s not what I would consider a yuppified or completely gentrified neighborhood either. There’s still an artistic feel, with funky shops, lots of restaurants, and, as I mentioned, some interesting street art and graffiti. Check out the slideshow at right for some of the things I saw.
I know I mentioned in the beginning of the post that I was also walking the streets of Montparnasse to find some lunch, so I won’t leave that out of the story … I settled on "Akita, Restaurant Japonais,"" on Rue Daguerre, and had some great sushi. It was just what I needed to boost my energy for more exploration in the afternoon at the Industrial Church, which was next on my list of arts adventures in Montparnasse.