Alex Danchev

Band of Bohemians

In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris 1900–1910


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‘On or about December 1910,’ according to Virginia Woolf, ‘human character changed.’ Modernism took hold. December 1910 is the terminus ad quem of Sue Roe’s history, which seeks to argue that ‘the real revolution in the arts first took place not, as is commonly supposed, in the 1920s, to the accompaniment of the Charleston, black jazz and mint juleps, but more quietly and intimately, in the shadow of the windmills – artificial and real – and in the cafés and cabarets of Montmartre during the first decade of the twentieth century’. If this sounds a little forced, it is possibly also a little hackneyed. ‘The unknown artists who gathered there and lived closely overlapping lives are now household names,’ Roe concludes in the introduction, breathlessly. ‘This book tells their story.’

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