Place Blanche is located at the bottom of the Montmartre hill. The hill, reaching a height of one hundred and thirty meters, has its own history. From antiquity until the 20th century, this suburb of Paris was famous for its limestone deposits.
The hill was dotted with special windmills for grinding it. In several places there were quarries for mining. It was also actively used in laying the local roads.
Therefore, when the hill became part of Paris in the 19th century, one of its squares, Blanche, got its name, which means white in French. In the same period, during the reconstruction of the city, most of the modern streets were built there.
The favorite of the creative intelligentsia
In that era, housing on the outskirts of the capital was inexpensive, food, too (which cannot be said about today), and the surroundings are picturesque. Therefore, the square and the streets adjacent to it quickly became the habitat for students and novice artists and writers.
At the tables of her cafe met the nascent Parisian bohemia. Outstanding representatives of France, Spain, Holland, Italy lived in the area of the square: Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Gauguin, Picasso, in the workshops of which the latest trends in world art were formed.
Russia also brought its color to this world art palette. Around the corner, one of the houses of the square, where Lepik Street begins, in the 1870's, the Russian artist Ilya Repin rented a house for his family. Here, from under his brush came the famous portrait of Turgenev. Known to every student now, then he was criticized by the posing writer for an indecent appearance, from his point of view. The customer, the philanthropist Tretyakov, did not like the picture, and he refused to buy it. The situation was saved by the millionaire Savva Mamontov, who acquired the canvas, and then presented it to the Tretyakov Gallery.
The journey to Paris of the heir to the Russian throne, Alexander (the future Alexander III), belongs to the same period. Having examined the Place Blanche, the Grand Duke visited Repin's workshop and purchased from him, created in Paris, the painting "Sadko". The canvas, which glorified the artist in Russia, was later included in the collection of the Russian Museum.
Theo, the brother of the famous artist Van Gogh, lived near Repin's apartment. The painter himself paid him housing and wrote some of his works there.
In the Blanche district, Italian Modigliani, who became famous after his early death, created his paintings and sculptures. Here the Frenchman Utrillo wrote, a native of Montmartre, who glorified him in his urban landscapes.
Already then, the freedom of morals began to arise here, which was also adhered to by representatives of the artistic intelligentsia. Many of them spent long evenings in a cabaret, the most famous of which was the famous Moulin Rouge.
The cabaret was built at the end of the century before last at the end of Blanche Square. Its building is a red mill with spinning blades. The institution gained wide popularity after its artists first danced on the cancan scene.
It is not surprising that he glorified this light institution ... Count. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec belonged to the famous count family. In his teens, after a series of injuries, his legs stopped growing. A talented young man almost breaks with the high society and moves to Montmartre, trying to realize himself in painting. Here, starting with advertising posters, he gradually becomes one of the prominent representatives of post-impressionism.
The result of a visit to the Moulin Rouge, was a series of paintings by Henry, depicting his dancers. But the count's love of alcohol ended sadly: he died before he was forty years old.
Attracting tourists, the blades of a modern cabaret mill are spinning, driven by an electric drive. But if you look "over the shoulder" Moulin Rouge, higher, on the same Lepik, you can see a real mill. To date, only two have survived in Montmartre. This - the so-called "Galetnaya", is known from the 1814 war of the year when Paris was taken by storm by the allied forces of the European powers, led by Russia. After that, the enterprising French turned it into a dance floor. Renoir was made famous by the artist, painting a picture depicting one of the dance evenings.
Today, in the evenings, White Square is full of neon lights and bright advertising. And during the day it is the starting point of many fascinating tourist routes in Montmartre.
Address: Place Blanche, Paris 75009.