It is only fitting that Montparnasse Cemetery is the final resting place of a large number of French and foreign film makers, artists, authors and publishers.
Montparnasse was once home to the world famous and vibrant artistic hub in Paris.
Dance halls and cafés began to sprout up during the French Revolution, by 1910 artists had migrated from Montmartre, favouring the cheaper rents and artist’s communes available.
They came from far and wide, from all corners of the world to revel amongst the thriving creative community and like minded souls.
It seems unfathomable to think that the famous artists, who today, we flock to galleries to study their great works, such as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Ossip Zadkine, Marc Chagall, Henri Rousseau, Constantin Brâncuși, Diego Rivera and Salvador Dalí, and the prose we leaf through with admiration by Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, were once struggling artists, gathered around in the bistros of Montparnasse in La Rotunde or La Closerie des Lilas, as they sat on one drink all day, debating, creating or sketching something upon a napkin to pay for their supper.
By the roaring 20’s Montparnasse was bursting with the eclectic literary and intellectual crowd and quickly developed a reputation of the new hip place to be. With that, brought 30,000 Americans, including Peggy Guggenheim, and Edith Wharton, ready to discover and explore.
Montparnasse Cemetery was established in 1824 on the grounds that were once hilly farming areas. In the centre of the cemetery still sits the original windmill structure, less it’s blades.
Divided into two easily navigable sections; the smaller – Petit Cimetière and the larger Grand Cimetière, with Rue Emile Richard, slicing through the centre.
Amongst some of the greats buried here is American-born Surrealist artist and photographer – Man Ray (1890–1976), the feminist philosopher & author – Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986), Samuel Beckett (1906–1989), Irish author, playwright & poet.
Author of the must have home food bible encyclopedia Larousse Gastronomique – Pierre Larousse (1817–1875) and the Russian born, chess world champion; Alexander Alekhine (1892–1946).
A few hours could easily disappear, weaving around such notable graves like that of Aristide Boucicaut (1810–1877), entrepreneur and creator of the magnificent department store; Le Bon Marché or Antoine Bourdelle (1861–1921), sculptor & teacher, Constantin Brâncuși (1876–1957), Romanian sculptor.
The founder of France’s Citroen car factory – André Citroën (1878–1935), is also buried here, along with the designer of the original Paris Opera House for Napoleon III – Charles Garnier (1825–1898).
Also the woman known as the “Queen of Montparnasse”, Kiki (1901–1953), singer, actress and painter.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980), French philosopher & novelist, Susan Sontag (1933–2004), American author & philosopher and Ossip Zadkine (1890–1967), Russian-born sculptor & artist.
And possibly the most visited at Montparnasse Cemetery; singer and composer, (1928-1991) – Serge Gainsbourg’s lipstick kissed and metro ticket strewn grave, where he rests with his family – Olga & Joseph Ginsburg.
Montparnasse may not be the same as it was back in the early 1900’s, and you may not get away with sketching a drawing on a napkin in lieu of your dinner but visiting one of the famous artists haunts, La Closerie des Lilas or La Rotunde, is a great pit stop after a visit to the Montparnasse Cemetery.
Breton cafes surrounding the train station, Gare Montparnasse, which is the main line to Brittany, serve up delicious crepes and there is a lively vibe about the area, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.
Paris Adèle’s Information Nécessaire:Montparnasse Cemetery 3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris Nearest Metros: Edgar Quinet or Gaite Opening Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:30pm Entrance: Free Ask for a ‘un plan’ at the concierge’s office just inside the gate
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