Numbers 54, 78
In pouring rain one morning in 1809, trying to get up the Montmartre hill to reach the new telegraph installed in the bell tower of the Saint-Pierre church, Napoleon was forced to finish the climb on foot. So he ordered the building of the new rare (for Paris) curving road up the hill from the customs post called La Barrière de la Place Blanche.
Initially called ‘Chemin Neuf’ (the ‘New Way’) his nephew (Louis-Napoleon) renamed it the Rue de l’Empereur after he seized power in 1852. In 1864 he changed it again to commemorate Napoleon’s cavalry general, who just happened to be the father of one of Napoleon III’s strongest supporters.
During the defence of the Commune in 1871, one of the four most important barricades in Montmartre, according to the government report of June 1871, was across Rue Lepic at the crossroads with la rue des Abbesses, close to number 31.
It was at the southern end of Rue Lepic, on the Place Blanche in May 1871, Hazan (HB) notes, that the famous women’s barricade, commanded by the Russian revolutionary Elizabeth Dmitrieff and made up of militants from the Union des Femmes, held out for several hours.
In 1887 Vincent van Gogh lived at 54 rue Lepic and painted his now famous view from this window and other works.
Félix Fénéon, living at number 78, reviewed Van Gogh in 1889. While writing snottily that ‘A general exhibition of his work will show what a powerful and unique artist he is’. He had also described his former near neighbour in another article as ‘a diverting colourist’.
Fénéon moved round the corner in 1894 five days after a police search on 5 April 1894 which only finds visiting cards from Pissarro, Octave Mirbeau and Tailhade. His concierge had denounced him to the police for receiving too many visitors and foreign mail.
Those who climb the winding road up to its very top will be nearly opposite the large second floor window of the Montmartre studio of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), who spent three months at 49 Rue Gabrielle in 1900.