La Closerie des Lilas
The cafés and bars of Montparnasse were a vital meeting place where new ideas were hatched and mulled over.
The cafés at the centre of Montparnasse’s night-life were in the Carrefour Vavin, now renamed Place Pablo-Picasso. The cafés Le Dôme, La Closerie des Lilas, La Rotonde, Le Select, and La Coupole — all of which are still in business — were where, in Montparnasse’s hey-day from 1910-20, starving artists could occupy a table all evening for a few centimes. If they fell asleep, the waiters were instructed not to wake them. Arguments were common, some fueled by intellect, others by alcohol, and if there were fights, and there often were, the police were never summoned. If you couldn’t pay your bill, people such as La Rotonde’s proprietor, Victor Libion, would often accept a drawing, holding it until the artist could pay. As such, there were times when the café’s walls were littered with a collection of artworks, that today would make the curators of the world’s greatest museums drool with envy.