Commissioner Zamaron: The Artists’ Police Friend with Benefits

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Commissioner Zamaron: The Artists’ Police Friend with Benefits
Modigliani often flew into rages. He drank too much. He smoked hashish. When the artist was entrusted to buy cocaine for his friends he came back sniffing yet empty-handed. When he palled around with the drunken and damaged painter Maurice Utrillo, their antics would often result in them ending up in the local police station in the rue Delambre. Commissioner Léon Zamaron would be called in. For a pittance, Zamaron would buy paintings off this couple of drunkards. In exchange, the Commissioner released the painters after their night of drinking ended peaceably at the station. Léon Zamaron by Marek Szwarc. Guided by his generosity and his love of painting and painters, Zamaron became the patron and protector of a number of artists in distress — artists whose works are now known worldwide. Zamaron’s art collection constituted one of the most important collections of modern art — but little is known of him. Henry K Epstein, Nature morte aux fleurs. Public domain At the Paris Prefecture of Police, Léon Zamaron was the official in charge of all foreigners and became a friend in need to the city’s artists. When the First World War ended there were many hangers-on — refugees in the name of art reluctant to return to their home countries. They wanted to experience what the cutting edge, yet cut-rate city of Paris offered. Paris was swept up by the Roaring Twenties, but the neighborhood most caught up in the effervescent spirit of the time was Montparnasse. Artists and writers of this time frequented the bars and cafés around the crossroads of the Boulevard Montparnasse and the rue Vavin: Le Dome, Le Select, La Rotonde, La Coupole. Léon Zamaron witnessed the creativity of this group. Mme Zamaron by Suzanne Valadon. At the MoMa. (c) 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York – ADAGP, Paris Mme Zamaron Whenever a painter ran into trouble Zamaron came to the rescue, helping to solve their administrative issues and get their papers in order, or salve their misdemeanors. When not on duty he would often show up at the Le Dome or La Rotonde spending a long night sitting at the artists’ tables and perhaps running interference against Eugène Descaves, another Parisian policeman who was a less tactful collector of art.

Lead photo credit : Police Commissioner Zamaron (C) Digital Collections of the INHA Library/ The Institute National d’histoire de l’art.

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.


  •  Marilyn Brouwer
    2021-06-17 07:51:50
    Marilyn Brouwer
    Brilliant as always Hazel. We were definitely born in the wrong century.