The Beehive

The ambition that burned in the breasts and the brushes of the immigrant artists at La Ruche was not enough to warm them on winter nights. Hunger is what lured them to Paris and hunger is what kept them there, a zealous hunger that fortified them against the physical hunger which incessantly rumbled in the bellies of the painters, the poets, and the musicians, many of them Jews, who clawed their way from their respective shtetls to the City of Light. La Ruche, which means The Beehive, was — and still is — a colony of humble artists’ studios in the fifteenth arrondissement in Paris, near Montparnasse. La Ruche was among the many artist complexes in Montparnasse that together sheltered the École de Paris, which is what the French art critics christened the swarms of immigrants suddenly overflowing their academies and their galleries in the early decades of the twentieth century. The title distinguished the foreign contaminants from the École Française, which, according to street gossip as well as literary magazines, the emigres were polluting. In a monograph on the painter André Dunoyer de Segonzac which appeared in La Carnet de la semaine in 1925, the art critic Louis Vauxcelles (himself a French Jew as well as a textbook arriviste, who was petrified that his unsavory Semitic brethren would upset his position in the art establishment) proclaimed that “a barbarian horde has rushed upon Montparnasse, descending [on the art galleries of] rue La Boétie from the cafes of the fourteenth arrondissement… these are people from ‘elsewhere’ who ignore and at their hearts look down on what Renoir has called the gentleness of the École Française — that is, our race’s virtue of tact.” (Note that anxious our.) The art critic Fritz Vanderpyl was a good deal nastier. In an article

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