Chef at the museum

At the beginning of 1882, Claude Monet found himself without money. A year earlier he had to move with his mistress and later to be his wife Alice Hoschedé and eight children - two of his own and six from her previous marriage - to Poissy, close to Paris.

But something about the place didn't give him a piece of his mind so to find it and some inspiration he went to Normany, on the banks of the La Manche channel. Even there the small village of Dieppe was too crowded for him, then he found a refuge in a tavern named "A la Renommée des Galettes" in even the tinier village of Pourville, not far from Dieppe. The tavern's name means "The pride of the Galettes", and it refers to the buckwheat flour pancake that is typical to the region of Breton residing west of Normandy (according to my good Parisian friend, the current "King of Galettes" in the capital is Bertrand Larcher, owner of the Breizh Café chain - don't miss it on your next visit).

Although the price for staying was only 6 francs, and although Monet was the only resident in the tavern, his awful financial situation didn't afford him to pay even that sum of money. But since it's Monet we're talking about, he managed to pay the bill with paintings of course:

Two of the paintings portray the Alsace origin tavern owners Paul-Antoine Graff and his wife Eugénie and are named "Père Paul" and "La Mère Paul" ("Father Paul" and "Mother Paul"). Today the paintings are hanged in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna and Fogg Museum in Massachusetts, respectively.

In a third painting that was handed to the couple and since then found its way to a private collection somewhere around the world Monet revealed with his brush the pastry which gave the tavern its name - the Galette. In his first letter from Pourville to Alice Monet had wished that he arrived at the tavern earlier and described "Père Paul" as "an excellent cook". Some critics say that the half-bottle on the left is a symbol for Monet's sense of "losing his head", and the knife that lies next to the galettes was put there "like a threat which lies in his heart".

And maybe, in a more down-to-earth and nice analysis, the wonderful crepes of the Graffs were the shelter for Monet, soft and rich buckwheat flour and butter pastries that gave him back his spirit and the strength to continue painting.

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