Top 5 Fun Facts about Picasso’s Studio

Make sure to read our article Top 10 Things To Do in Montmartre before you start walking around Montmartre. This article covers you the best places to visit and gives you some great advice to make the most of your Paris trip.

Spanish painter Pablo Picasso is arguably one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He spearheaded the artistic movement of Cubism, was the co-inventor of collaging, and he also invented the concept of constructed sculpture.

Picasso may have been Spanish, but he spent most of his adult life in France, notably in Paris! So many artists, writers, and creatives have flocked to the city for hundreds of years, and as a writer myself, I can see why!

Picasso had an artists studio that he lived and worked in alongside Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, and Juan Gris…to name a few! Keep reading for 5 more fun facts about Picasso’s art studio in Montmartre.

Open a map of all the sites mentioned in this article.
Le Bateau-Lavoir map

Le Bateau-Lavoir map

PRACTICAL INFORMATION
ADDRESS: Le Bateau-Lavoir, 13 de la place Émile-Goudeau 75018 Paris
METRO STATION: Abbesses

1. Picasso’s studio was called the Bateau-Lavoir

Le Bateau-Lavoir circa 1910

Le Bateau-Lavoir circa 1910 – WikiCommons

Bateau-Lavoir translates to laundry boat in English! There are a few different theories as to why Picasso’s studio was named as such.

The first suggests that it came from the fact that the outside of the building resembled the boats used for public washing that used to be docked on the Seine River at the time. Another theory says that it was perhaps because the building was in such rickety shape that when the wind blew you got the feeling that you were on a ship! And last, but not least, others say it was because the artist residents typically had a clothesline filled with there garments drying outside nearly all the time. 

Whichever theory you’d like to believe in, the studio was loving called Le Bateau-Lavoir, and has since become a main feature of Montmartre!

2. Cubism was invented in Picasso’s Montmartre studio

'Fan, Salt Box, Melon' - Pablo Picasso (1909)

‘Fan, Salt Box, Melon’ – Pablo Picasso (1909) by Roy Luck – Flickr

Picasso first showed up in Paris in 1900 for the legendary World’s Fair. He was quickly smitten with the city and began to live between Spain and Paris from 1900-1904. After his best friend at the time, Carlos Casagemas sadly took his own life in a Parisian café, Picasso embarked on what would be known as his ‘Blue Period,’ and he soon decided that he wanted to live in Paris full time. 

He found lodging at le Bateau-Lavoir in 1904, and was soon living and painting there. Montmartre used to be famous for it’s low rents and cheap eats. Before the city limits of Paris were expanded in 1860, Montmartre was a village on its own, and its residents were a bit on the scruffy side. By the time Picasso arrived there nearly 45 years later, Montmartre was still known as the rough part of the city.

Once Picasso set up shop in the studio, he partnered up with fellow painter Georges Braque to develop what would become one of the most important art movements of the twentieth century – Cubism!

3. Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in the studio

'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' - Pablo Picasso (1907)

‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ – Pablo Picasso (1907) by NichoDesign – Flickr

One of Picasso’s most celebrated paintings is called Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The painting depicts a group of five women, presumed to be prostitutes in a brothel located on a street in Barcelona. The painting shocked the art world and many in Picasso’s entourage for it’s extremely unfeminine portrayal of women. When it was exhibited in 1916, the Parisian art world rejected the painting as immoral.

Today, the painting is considered to be the final departure from the traditional painting style of the nineteenth century, the first work of modern art, and is one of the first cubist paintings ever produced!

You can find the piece is on display at the Modern Museum of Art in New York City. I’ve seen the painting in person in New York, and it really is so special to see up close. If you’re ever in New York, definitely check it out!

4. Picasso painted Gertrude Stein’s portrait in the studio

Picasso, 'Gertrude Stein' (detail), 1906

Picasso, ‘Gertrude Stein’ (detail), 1906 by Sharon Mollerus – Flickr

American ex-pat and writer Gertrude Stein was one of the first supporters of Picasso’s work in Paris. It was actually her brother Leo that discovered Picasso in his studio. On the Steins’ first visit to the Bateau-Lavoir, the pair bought 800 francs (nearly 2,500 euros today) worth of art!

In 1905, Picasso painted Gertrude Stein’s portrait in the studio. You can see the portrait yourself if you head to the Modern Museum of Art in New York City.

This was just the beginning of the beautiful friendship between Picasso and Gertrude Stein. He could often be found at her salon on the rue des Fleurus in the 6th arrondissement, where Gertrude had his paintings on display. Some other major players that one could expect to see at Ms. Stein’s apartment? Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many other Lost Generation artists and writers. I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall during those moments – it seems that Gertrude Stein was friends with almost every one of my favorite authors!

5. The original studio was destroyed in 1970

Bateau-Lavoir

The green door at number 13 is where Picasso would have entered the Bateau-Lavoir by Kalashni – WikiCommons

In 1970, a devastating fire destroyed the studio. It was rebuilt in concrete in 1978 to avoid another fire.

Today, if you are an artist, you can rent a studio inside the complex! There are 25 different studios in the structure, and although you can’t live there, if you’re a young artist, you can rent a studio to work on your own masterpieces.

This fire wasn’t the only one that occurred at the studio. According to the memoirs of fellow-artist-turned-lover Fernande Olivier was locked inside the studio because Picasso was jealous that she may pose for other painters when he wasn’t there. It just so happens that on this day, the Bateau-Lavoir caught fire! Olivier was thankfully okay.

Picasso was an extremely jealous person, and tended to become obsessive with women. His relationship with Fernande wasn’t any different! Another fun fact about their relationship? Fernande is said to have brought Picasso out of his ‘Blue Period,’ and ushered him into his ‘Rose Period.’

Conclusion

Today, unfortunately you are unable to enter the studio unless you are renting there as an artist. But, there is an informative plaque that the city of Paris installed just outside to commemorate Picasso and all of the other impressive artists that once worked and lived in the studio. There is also a window display which features photos and other information!

I hope you’ve learned a lot from this blog about Picasso’s studio in Montmartre! If you’d like to learn even more, I recommend you click here to tour Montmartre with one of our amazing local guides! You’ll be glad you did.