The “Beehive” in Paris – A Pilgrimage


From Webster Young:

The “Beehive” or “La Ruche” in Paris was a building full of artist studios, developed by the French sculptor Boucher out of a pavilion that had been part of the 1900 Paris exposition (Boucher bought the pavilion for the purpose).  Before the First World War, it was the home of Marc Chagall, where he lived in a tiny studio when he first came to Paris. The poet Blaise Cendrars visited him there often , and the poet named some of Chagall’s most important paintings of the period.  Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and others also visited. Modigliani, Soutine, and other future greats of the period lived there in near abject poverty.

After reading about it all my life, I finally visited there in August.  I had the good fortune to be shown around by an artist who now has the studio space that is next door to Chagall’s.

Here is a little photo album of La Ruche:

View of the roof from the 3rd floor studios, which were slices of the circular floor plan and made up a duple octagon of doorways.

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An outside window, possibly from Chagall’s space (although the windows are  re-done):

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Almost Delaunay-like  aspects of the old pavilion are seen in the structure:

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The entrance to the building exactly as it has been since the early days. Chagall, Soutine, Modigliani, Cendrars – all had to enter between the two “goddesses”. The grounds then were much like a junkyard – not like today – in the poorest, meatpacking part of Paris.

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The nearby Dantzig cafe, where the owner sometimes used to accept paintings for payment from the starving artists at La Ruche (the shrubs on the right of the street mark the gate to the Beehive grounds.

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The Beehive is capped with a cupola:

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Some original features of the rooms are still there, including metal beams with bolts from the old Pavilion. (These are pics that would be very hard to find anywhere…)

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The skylights in the third floor studios are still in their original positions. This is next door to Chagall. The curious shaped, and bolted, metal beam still shows. It was through a skylight like this that the angel fell into Chagall’s studio in 1914. The incident became the basis of  his masterpiece, “The Falling Angel”,  of 1928 – but he first painted the incident right afterwards when he returned to Russia in 1914. In the 1914 painting, his self portrait shows him almost as thin as a skeleton, which he was, after La Ruche.

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“The Soldier Drinks” by Chagall, painted at La Ruche and named by Blaise Cendrars .



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