Saving the Cite Fleurie


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Armand Lacroix in his studio.

Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©1977

Although La Ruche artists’ ateliers in the 15th arondissement and Le Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre may be well documented as haunts of famous Paris artists, the Cite Fleurie may be the most remarkable of all the 19th century artist studio complexes because of the sacrifices its artist residents made to keep it alive.

From the street, you would have trouble guessing the the tidy row of low-rise studios, designed to look something like half-timbered houses, holds its own secret garden. Gravel paths lead from one studio to the next, flanked by the type of garden that defies order and definition – one might almost call it an urban sprawling jungle of memories – trees planted for a resident’s ‘vernissage’ or opening show, roses intertwined with creeping vines.
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Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007

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If the Cite Fleurie, one of the landmark art studio complexes of the Montparnasse artists is still around, much of the credit goes to sculptor Armand Lacroix and his American wife Betty Lacroix. They were resident artists at the Cite Fleurie from the 1950s to the 1980s. In fact neighbor artist and activiist in the movement to save the Cite Fleurie from demolition – H. Cadiou once said that if the Cite Fleurie were to be named after any one resident it should be Armand Lacroix. More well-known artists such as Modigliani or Gauguin may have found shelter at the Cite but none of these ‘names’ stayed here long enough to fight the fight developers.

So, here’s Parislogue’s tribute to Armand Lacroix who gave up years of his craft – time he could have spent continuing his sculpting – to save a landmark that he felt deserved to be saved and represented as an essential part of the Parisian landscape.

George Armand Lacroix was born in Paris on July 19, 1907.
He died of throat cancer on February 14, 1982. In the 1970s, he and his wife were still using coal to heat their studio.

In H. Cadiou’s eulogy to Armand, he wrote in “The Life of an Artist”
“Armand Lacroix’s destiny was to be born in an era where the media and the government-sponsored arts favored the ‘art fads of the moment’ to the detriment of more durable art.”
Talking about the student Lacroix, H. Cadiou writes: “While he studied at the Arts Decoratifs, he cut classes to paint alongside the Seine River. There a passerby convinced him to apply for the Beaux Arts Academy where he was eventually accepted. At the National Superior School of Beaux Art is where he won First Prize of ‘antique’ and First Prize ‘d’atelier’.”

He continued to garner awards and it’s no surprise that Lacroix’s commissioned statues found homes in distinguished settings, ranging from the Palace of Luxembourg Senate: “Young Woman Seated” (1945) in the Winter Salon of the Senate President, to the Musee de la France d’outre mer (Porte d’Oree). (Two bronze busts – 1939).

Although his contributions as a sculptor may never receive the acclaim of being audacious or extraordinary for his era like Rodin (whom he admired), his battle to fight alongside neighbor artists including H. Cadiou to save some of the few ‘green spots’ in Paris was monumental. Before the fight to save the Cite Fleurie, over 700 artists’ studios had been demolished in the 1960s and 1970s.


2 thoughts on “Saving the Cite Fleurie

  • researchgirl

    thanks for the beautiful history — this is the stuff we love of course — are there tours of these small out-of-the-way artists colony groupings in Paris?

  • parisgirl

    The bicycle tour ‘Paris a Velo, C’est Sympa!’ stops in front of the Cite Fleurie on its tour entitled, “13eme arrondissement Insolite” which translates as “the unusual 13th precinct” Although all of these cites are still private residences, some artists (those that remain) are known to allow visitors. Armand did so on a number of occasions when he was still alive. His granddaughter -Jasmine- also welcomed me and invited me to revisit the studio. There is a door code to enter the gardens and studio – sometimes if you’re lucky to arrive at the same time as a resident, they’ll allow you to take a peek. The situation is similar for la Ruche, but the Musee du Montparnasse on Avenue du Maine is open for visits if you want to know more about the Montparnasse artists’ and their lifestyle.

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