Suggestion number two: have your holiday portrait painted at the Place du Tertre in Montmartre

In keeping with yesterday's theme of Christmas presents for hard to please Francophiles, I was pleased to discover this artist at the Place du Tertre whose drawing actually resembles his subject. So, how about having a portrait done of yourself? To ensure that it looks like you and not a distant cousin, spend some time observing the different artists at work. Select one, agree on a price, take a seat and be prepared for tourists (and bloggers!) to take your photo. After all, you're part of the charm of this square that is the heart of Montmartre.

Let's get a cup of vin chaud (mulled wine) and go for a stroll. Thanks to the grey sky and cold weather, the Place du Tertre is just how I like it - pleasantly free of crowds.

Insider's tip: If you would like to have a drink at one of the cafes at the Place du Tertre, be sure to check the prices on the menu first. They can be outrageously expensive.

Waiting for a customer. Even if it's not vin chaud, a hot drink tastes good on a chilly Parisian day.
Francophiles love paintings of the Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge or anything that reminds them of their last trip to Paris.
Who cares about the quality of his work - with his paint splattered pants, red scarf,
and jaunty black beret this man is the quintessential Parisian painter.
After dark at the Place du Tertre. Time to pack up and go home...or to the nearest cafe.


  1. I'm not really sure I've been in the square. I think I was just reading about it though in a book by John Berger, forget the title. I see Sacre Coeur in the background, and I know Montmartre but I can't quite place this place. And it's nowhere near the 16th--you certainly get around. I can go weeks without leaving my neighborhood, if I'm not traveling.

    Any idea of prices for portraits? Is it as much as 100 Euros?

  2. Mary Kay, it is indeed The Place du Tertre that Berger writes about:

    "What of course is derisory in this commerce is the carefully encouraged hint that the portraits being made in the Place du Tertre have somehow been 'authenticated' by Renoir, Van Gogh, Utrillo, Picasso and all the other great painters who, half a century or more ago, worked and drank and went hungry in the same quarter, within shouting distance of the little 'place'. This, however, is an art-critical point, and has little to do with the ontological wager that a likeness, once caught, carries the mystey of Being."

    Imagine Paris, from Keeping a Rendezvous, by John Berger.

  3. Thanks for including the excerpt from "Imagine Paris". Berger certainly has a point--that's why I loved the photo of the man who looks like everyone's idealized version of a Parisian painter. It was as if he stepped out of my imagination. But can he paint? I don't know. I would venture to say that the next Renoir or Van Gogh is more likely to come from one of the artist squats than from the Place du Tertre but everyone still goes there to buy paintings. It seems like a good book. Do you recommend it?

    And speaking of books, finally had a copy of Julian Green's "Paris". It's next in line on my reading list.

    Place du Tertre/Montmartre were my favorite spots in Paris when I was 18. I guess that there were also lots of tourists in those days but somehow it had a different feel. Are you sure that you haven't been there? It's also a mecca for Hemingway fans because he used to frequent one of the cafes. I've only been three times since I moved here, but I have a friend visiting and she really wanted to see it. We strolled around, went to a piano bar to listen to some music and came out after the sun had set. That was pure magic because I got a sense of what it used to feel like.

    I'm not sure how much the artists charge for the portraits. I heard some people negotiating with an artist working on the street (not the Place du Tertre) and it seems as if he was charging 30 Euros. After watching the artist in the first photo, I'm tempted to take my children there the next time that they're in town.

  4. Omg! You just gave me an idea! I want to have my portrait done and sent out as my Christmas card!! How obnoxious would that be?!?!

  5. MK, the Berger book is great, especially if you enjoy reading about art, art history and such. There are several essays about Paris in the book. I'm so happy to hear that Paris by Juilan Green is in your queue. I pulled my copy out yesterday and found a letter from my Mom written at least 10 or 15 years ago--wow, didn't expect that. Quite touching at this time of year, will be seeing her for the holiday. Anyway, I re-read Green's chapter on the Glorious 16th--a capriccio of a time gone.

    @MademoisElla, that is so funny. And no more obnoxious than others with full family portraits in red sweaters.

  6. MademoisElla, It would only be obnoxious if you're wearing reindeer antlers and holding mistletoe over your head. Otherwise, you're good to go. And if you do, don't forget to add me to your Christmas card list!

    Joseph, Old letters are such treasures and even more so when we come across one unexpectedly. My mom kept all of my letters (as I did hers) and started returning them to me a couple of years ago. It has been fun going back and reading about my first impressions of Paris. I can't quite imagine getting the same pleasure over old emails or text messages.

    I'm going to take a break from the internet and read Green's chapter on the 16th right now.


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