Today the 755 winding metres of Rue Lepic are home to a plethora of boutiques and eateries. The history of Rue Lepic however, is one filled with rebellion and innovation.
According to local folklore, after being forced to abandon his horse and trek up the old path to the church on the top of hill, Napoleon 1st took the priest’s request to construct an official thoroughfare and created Rue Lepic in 1809. Originally named Rue Ravignan and later Rue Emperor, its final name was in honour of cavalry commander Louis Lepic.
Montmartre became a hub for European artists in the late 19th century, following its annexation into Paris in 1860. Many of the era’s most renowned painters called Lepic home during this period, the most famous being Vincent Van Gogh. Residing on the fourth floor of number 54 from 1886 to 1888, Van Gogh commemorated his residence on Lepic with a portrait of the view from his bedroom in 1887.
Charles Leandre (no. 59), Wilette (no. 87) and Eugène Delâtre (who lived at numbers 87, 92, 97 and 102 at different times), made Lepic home and Félix Ziem likewise had his workshop at no. 72. Of all the Montmartre painters, only Maurice Utrillo was an authentic ‘montmartrois’, born and raised in the bohemian borough. Specialising in painting his surroundings, Utrillo painted multiple portraits of Rue Lepic, which endure as the street’s most popular depictions.
A epicentre for dissidents, communard chansonnier Jean Baptiste Clement moved to Rue Lepic following his return to Paris from exile, assisting in the creation of the Revolutionary Socialist Workers’ Party from number 112. Clement’s Le Temps des Cerises became a popular revolutionary hymn in many French speaking countries and was popularised by Yves Montand. Montand would himself immortalise Rue Lepic in song in 1952. Anarchist poet Jehan Rictus also lived in Lepic for over a decade, while the pioneering French novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline wrote his celebrated novel Journey to the End of the Night while during his time at no. 92.
Not only the muse of artists, Rue Lepic similarly contributed to the French automotive industry. In 1898, Louis Renault bet friends that his first car, the Voiturette could make it to the top of Rue Lepic. He subsequently won the bet, sold 12 cars that evening and kickstarted what became one of France’s most successful enterprises. Another ambitious French business Vandoren, the renowned manufacturer of instruments designed their famous 5RV mouthpiece at number 56 Rue Lepic.
Today Rue Lepic is a must see tourist destination for one reason in particular, Le Cafe Deux Moulins. Named after the two neighbouring windmills (moulins), the Moulin Rouge and Moulin de la Galette, featured in one of France’s most beloved films, Amélie in 2001. Situated at number 15, the cafe where Amélie Poulin worked as a waitress is now an international attraction. Fortunately not staffed by the eccentric cast of characters employed in the film, they still serve Amélie’s favourite creme brûlée.
With such a wealth of artistic history, a trip to Rue Lepic is a must for any visitor to Montmartre.