Avenue du Maine

Arrondissements 14, 15

Numbers: 21, 22, 33, 44, 52, 54, 77, 141,198

Avenue du Maine around 1905

In the 1760s the avenue that now runs from the Boulevard du Montparnasse to the Rue de Vaugirard was called the way to Orléans. It only became known as the Maine road in 1791, and finally the Avenue du Maine from 1821. The only connection with one of Louis XIV’s sons, the Duke of Maine, is that in the early 18th century Auguste de Bourbon used to travel down that way from his chateau at Sceaux to his principal town house on the Rue de Varenne.

Close to the heaving left-leaning cultural centre of Montparnasse in the early 20th century, the Avenue was where many artists and writers chose to live and work. Mondrian lived and worked at No. 33 at the end of 1911; Douanier Rousseau was at No. 44 from 1893 to 1905; Diego Rivera lived at No 52 after returning from Mexico where he had feted the centenary of the Mexican Revolution.

The Russian artist Marie Vassilieff opened her first art school in 1908 at No. 54 and after she moved down the Avenue to No. 21 in 1911, Emmeline Pankhurst stayed at No. 54 briefly in 1913.

Marie Vassilieff painted by Modigliani around 1918

During the First World War Vassilieff opened a ‘canteen’ there, providing very cheap meals for often starving artists and their models. Apollinaire, Matisse and dozens of others benefited. Operating as a private club Vassilieff was also able to avoid the curfew, with music and dancing in the evenings.

Marie Vassilieff’s studio at No 21. In January 1917 she and Picasso evicted a drunk Modigliani from an event celebrating Braque‘s release from military service. A Montmartre Museum at No. 21 opened in 1998 but closed in 2015.

Among others known to have attended Vassilieff’s cheap lunches and night club were Trotksy and Rosmer. Lenin according to one rumour also visited. Her studio walls were covered with paintings by Chagall and Modigliani and with drawings by Picasso and Fernand Léger. On May 5 and 9 1913 Léger lectured there on the balance between lines, forms and colours and representation in contemporary art.

Owned by the City of Paris, No. 21 is now the Villa Vassilieff – a contempory art and research centre ‘ded­i­cated to un-explored resources and aims to rewrite and diver­sify the his­tory of art’.

In 1880, after his return from exile after having been joint administrator of the Louvre during the Commune (he had been sentenced in 1874 to forced labour for life), Jules Dalou lived with his wife and disabled daughter at No. 22, near his studio in the nearby Impasse du Maine (now the Rue Antoine-Bourdelle. Dalou’s studio was knocked down for an extension of the Bourdelle Museum in 1961).

It was while Dalou lived at No. 22 that he sculpted many of his most famous pieces, including in 1889 his Triumph of the Republic for the Place de la Nation and in 1890 his Monument to Eugene Delacroix for the Luxembourg Garden.

The Brasserie des Trois Mousquetaires at No. 77 was one of many bars Simone de Beauvoir visited between 1937 and 1939.

On 22 November 1941 three young Communists, Albert Gueusquin (alias Bob), Raymond Tardif and Jean Garreau threw a fire bomb into the Hôtel Océan at No. 100 that had been requisitioned for the exclusive use of German soldiers.

After Léon Jouhaux agreed to set up a new anti-Communist trade union confederation, the Confédération Générale du Travail-Force ouvrière (FO), the funding it received from the CIA allowed it to move into headquarters at No. 198. The Palais d’Orléans the FO took over had been built at the end of the 19th century as a huge house for weddings and banquets. The building has now been transformed into flats.

FO remained at No. 198 until 1996. André Bergeron led the union from there from 1963 to 1989 when he was succeeded by Marc Blondel, under whom FO moved to its newly-built headquarters at No. 141 in 1996.

PLACES