La Cité Falguière

The Cité Falguière is a cul-de-sac located in Paris’ 15th arrondissement, near Montparnasse.

It was erected during the late 19th century as an initiative of Jules-Ernest Bouillot, practitioner for sculptor and painter Alexandre Falguière. Bouillot had the idea of building low-cost studios that could be rented to artists with little resources. To this intent, in the 1860s he purchases a land at Chemin des Fourneaux and in the 1870s the first artist studios are built. The ateliers are set-up in a cul-de-sac separated from the Rue (previously Chemin) des Fourneaux by a wooden fence. The cul-de-sac is named Impasse Frémin after the first owner of the studios, Mrs. Frémin. A few years later, the street changes its name to Cité des Fourneaux. In 1901, Rue des Fourneaux takes its current name, Rue Falguière, and the cul-de-sac becomes Cité Falguière.

Located between the famous artist residence La Ruche and the increasingly vibrant area of Montparnasse, Cité Falguière served in the early years of the 20th century as work and/or living place to several modern artists, including Amedeo Modigliani, Chaïm Soutine, Tsuguharu Foujita, Constantin Brancusi, and Paul Gauguin.

Almost penniless painters, sculptors, and writers came from around the world attracted by the creative atmosphere of the Montparnasse neighborhood along with the cheap rents at artist studios such as La Ruche and Cité Falguière. Living without running water, in damp, unheated studios, seldom free of rats, many sold their works for a few francs just to buy food. Writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau once said that “poverty was a luxury in Montparnasse”. First promoted by art dealers such as Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, today these same artworks sell for millions of euros.

Urban renewal of the street began in the 1960s and artist studios were gradually destroyed to give way to residential buildings. Of the original structures, only numbers 9 and 11 are still standing today (shown below). Both buildings continue to house artist studios.


La cité Falguière à Paris, vue depuis la fin de l’impasse by Ralf Treinen, 20 May 2012 – Creative Commons License

Cite_falguiere_creative commons license

This is a shot from the end of the Cité, showing the only remaining structures, numbers 9 and 11. Soutine painted in number 11 (on the right side of the picture).


Cité Falguière by Daniel Angeli, 1967


This picture was taken by Daniel Angeli right before the demolition of the emblematic Hôtel – Villa Falguière located at the end of the cul-de-sac, number 14. On the walls a handwritten tag displays “Here lived Picasso, Soutine, Modigliani, Foujita” (however, it does not seem that Picasso lived in the Cité Falguière, although he did live in the Montparnasse neighborhood).


Another view of the Hôtel – Villa Falguière, 1947

hotel villa falguiere 1947


Retrospective view of the Cité Falguière by Jacques Mauve


The above illustration shows the layout of the Cité in the 1910s. The Hôtel – Villa Falguière is the building at the end of the cul-the-sac, and the buildings surrounded by a dotted line are those still standing today, numbers 9 and 11.


View of Cité Falguière in 2013, showing number 14 at the end of the cul-de-sac, where the Hôtel – Villa Falguière previously stood



Entrance gate of Hôtel – Villa Falguière



Hôtel – Villa Falguière seen from number 13



The two following pictures from Parisienne de Photographie show the inner courtyards that can be seen on the left in Jacques Mauve’s illustration, around 1920-1930.

La cité Falguière où se trouvaient de nombreux ateliers d’artistes, vers 1920-1930 – © Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet


La cité Falguière, 72, rue Falguière – © Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet



One of the most notable residents of Cité Falguière was Soutine. Soutine was born in the Smilovichi shtetl of the Russian Empire (now in Belarus) as the tenth of eleven children. Many stories surround Soutine’s obscure and complex early years. Soutine himself admitted not knowing his precise birth date, and stories depict a conflicted relationship with his father. Soutine emigrated to Paris in the beginning of the 1910s, when he was around 20 years old.


In Paris, he met and became instantly a friend to Modigliani. For a period of time, the two artists lived under the same roof at the Cité. In 1916, Soutine’s friend and compatriot painter Pinchus Krémègne recites: “One day I arrived at around 11pm or midnight at the Cité Falguière. Modigliani had thrown away all the furniture because it had been infested with bedbugs. I entered… Modigliani and Soutine were lying on the floor. Of course, there was no light or gas. They held each a candle in their hands; Modigliani was reading Dante and Soutine, Le Petit Parisien.”

The following paintings by Soutine depict the Cité Falguière.

La Cité Falguière, Chaïm Soutine, oil on canvas, painted circa 1914


Les ateliers de la cité Falguière, Chaïm Soutine, oil on canvas, painted circa 1914


This last canvas shows the painter’s studio at number 11, still an artist studio today. The chimney in the back belonged to the Institut Pasteur whose buildings adjoin those of the Cité. The Institut Pasteur is still located next to the Cité but the chimney was demolished.

Number 11 has not changed much since the 1910s, as the following shot taken in October 2013 attests.


An inscription on the wall reads: “Dans cet atelier habita le peintre Chaïm Soutine” (“In this atelier lived the painter Chaïm Soutine”).


Hôtel-Dieu de Paris

Hôtel-Dieu (“Hotel of God”) is the name of a hospital generally located next to a town’s cathedral and placed under the authority of the Bishop in medieval France. Introduced in the 7th century, Hôtels-Dieu had primarily the function of accommodating pilgrims and evangelizing travelers. Gradually, however, they turned into hospitals and nursing homes.

Founded in 651 by Saint Landry, the Bishop of Paris, Hôtel-Dieu de Paris is the city’s oldest hospital still in operation. The hospital stood on the south of Notre-Dame, on Île de la Cité’s left bank (where the statue of Charlemagne stands today).


Artwork from the beginning of the 19th century, showing the Notre-Dame cathedral and, on its right, the old building of the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris


In 1606 a second building for the crowded hospital was built at the other side of the Seine river. This building, the Salle Saint-Charles, was then connected to the main one through a new bridge, the Pont au Double, and later through the Pont Saint-Charles.


La salle du légat de la Chapelle Saint-Agnès, près du Petit Pont, extracted from Hôtel-Dieu de Paris : Treize siècles d’histoire… panégyrique ou réquisitoire (J. Cheymol and R.-J. César)


The illustration shows the façade of the Chapelle Saint-Agnès (13th century) and of the Salle du Légat (16th century) – both structures belonging to the old Hôtel-Dieu – viewed from the Rue du Marché-Palu (today Rue de la Cité), close to the Petit-Pont.


Plan of the Hôtel-Dieu, illustration from Description des Hôpitaux de Paris, engraved by Jacques-Etienne Thierry, 1808 (Musée de l’Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris)


On the above illustration, the bridge in the leftmost is the Pont au Double, on top of which additional hospital rooms were erected. The second bridge from left to right is the Pont Saint-Charles, and the third one the Petit-Pont.


View of the Hôtel-Dieu (highlighted in red) in the Turgot map of Paris, 1739


The complete Turgot map of Paris can be found here.


Vue de l’Hôtel-Dieu, prise du Petit-Pont, extracted from Hôtel-Dieu de Paris : Treize siècles d’histoire… panégyrique ou réquisitoire (J. Cheymol and R.-J. César)


The above image depicts the Hôtel-Dieu around 1830, with in the foreground the Pont Saint-Charles, and in the background, the Pont au Double surmounted by the Salle du Rosaire building. The Pont au Double was demolished in 1847, and the Pont Saint-Charles decades later, in 1878, at the same time as the Hôtel-Dieu itself was demolished. The Pont au Double that exists today was rebuilt in 1883.


Le Pont au Double, l’Hôtel-Dieu et le Petit Châtelet, Victor-Jean Nicolle (1754–1826) – Gallica, Bibliothèque nationale de France



Les Cagnards de l’Hôtel-Dieu, au début de l’Empire (postcard)


The cagnards were the malodorous platforms situated along the Seine and under the Hôtel-Dieu buildings. They were used as landing stage for boats coming from the Seine, as well as to dump waste water and to do the laundry. Medical students would even use them to get stolen corpses – used for their anatomy studies – out of the hospital without being seen.


The current building of Hôtel-Dieu stands on the north of Notre-Dame, on Île de la Cité’s right bank. Hôtel-Dieu was relocated to this new building as part of Baron Haussmann’s initiative in rebuilding and embellishing the Île. The old building, which had suffered severe damage from a massive fire in 1772, was demolished. Construction of the new building began around 1867 and the new hospital opened its doors about ten years later.


Embellissements de Paris – Démolition du petit pont de l’Hôtel-Dieu, engraving from Tableau de Paris showing the demolition of the Petit-Pont around 1852



Old Hôtel-Dieu before its demolition photographed by Charles Marville around 1865



Building of the new Hôtel-Dieu, 1867 (Archives Charmet, Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris)



Picture showing the Hôtel-Dieu on its current location, on the left of the Notre-Dame esplanade, 1900



Aerial view of the Île de la Cité showing the location of the new Hôtel-Dieu – Imagery ©2013 IGN-France, Map data ©2013 Cibercity, Google



Hôtel-Dieu today – view from the Notre-Dame esplanade


Boulevard Pasteur in the beginning of the 20th century

Here is an old Paris postcard from around 1910, showing the Paris metro, the Boulevard Pasteur, the Avenue de Breteuil and the Invalides.

The card was printed by C.M. (Malcuit photo-editing house, located at 3 rue Bourdaloue. The Malcuit brothers signed their work under C.M. or E.M. labels).


The metro line going along the Boulevard Pasteur is currently line 6, but at the time it was line 5. The line was born in 1900 as line 2 sud or Circulaire sud and went from Etoile to Place d’Italie. In 1906, it was integrated to line 5 which connected Place d’Italie to Gare du Nord. It was many years later, in 1942, that it became line 6 (which has then kept until today the same stations layout), when the Etoile – Place d’Italie section of line 5 was transferred to the existing line 6, created in 1909 and going from Place d’Italie to Nation.

A 1939 map of the metro network shows the configuration of lines 5 and 6 at the time.


On the postcard, at the corner of Boulevard Pasteur and Avenue de Breteuil, we can see an advertising for LU or Lefèvre Utile, a biscuits manufacturer, creator of the famous Petit Beurre.



1910 Great Flood of Paris (“Crue de la Seine de 1910”)

In 1910, following months on high rainfall, the Seine river flooded Paris and many of its neighboring towns.

The waters did not overflow the river’s banks within the city, but flooded Paris through subway tunnels and sewers.

For over a week, the flood shut down the city’s basic infrastructure and thousands of Parisians had to evacuate their homes and to make their way around the city on improvised footbridges.

Some images of the flood:


Pont de Solférino


Gare Saint-Lazare


Quai de Passy


Quai de Grenelle


Supply boats at Boulevard Saint-Germain


Pont Notre-Dame


One of the exits of Saint-Lazare metro station

gare st lazare

Avenue Ledru-Rollin


Gare d’Orsay (now the Musée d’Orsay)

quai orsay

Rescue boats (I would like to find the location of the shot – can someone tell me?)


Rue de Seine


Pont Saint-Michel


%d bloggers like this: