Just outside Paris, meet the artists and craftsmen in Saint Germain Boucles de Seine who follow in the footsteps of the great French artists.
Let yourself be seduced by the smell of wood when you enter a workshop… or by the sight of beautiful pottery thrown on the wheel. Meet these marvelous artists and artisans d’art and learn to shape materials with their methods and styles. The region is full of craftsmen and women who have turned their passion into a profession. Upholsterers, jewelers, ceramists, sculptors and leatherworkers all assemble, paint and cut their materials with the same dedication and passion.
From Chatou to Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Chatou, less than 30 minutes from the Paris city center by RER train, is one of the most artistic towns in the area. Easily accessible by public transport, Chatou was the historical home to many painters such as André Derain and Auguste Renoir. Here you will have the pleasure of finding ceramists, glassmakers and jewelers. If you are fascinated by leather, go to the leather workshop of Mélanie de Watteville Berckheim at 6 rue des Chardrottes in Chatou. She invites you to come and discover her world and her handmade creations. And if you prefer the pure look of gem stones showcased in jewelry, we recommend the Sôma Bijoux workshop, at 1 rue Georges Clemenceau. But that’s not all! In Louveciennes, Carrières-sur-Seine, Montesson, Houilles, Le Port-Marly, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Croissy-sur-Seine, you can find other artists and artisans…
Workshop Open House
Les JEMA (Journées Européennes des Métiers d’Art) (the JEMA (Journées Européennes des Métiers d’Art) are an opportunity to meet them and discover their know-how. Workshops, demonstrations, exchanges with the public, you will be welcomed with pleasure and will be able to watch their work unfold. The European Crafts Days take place every year from the end of March to the beginning of April and bring together a few enthusiasts of their art around the same common goal: to gather the public around local crafts.
The European Crafts Days is actually the largest international event dedicated to crafts. Today it takes place in 18 European countries. The theme of the 16th edition, which just concluded, is “our hands in unison” with the aim of “working together” and showing off the “European nature” of the crafts’ gestures. Mark your calendars for the next European Crafts Days, taking place from 27 March to 2 April, 2023.
At Marly-le-Roi, a few artists and craftsmen opened their doors for an art weekend in early April. They presented their artistic creations with passion.
Once a year, in the spring, the Loop Artists’ Collective organizes meetings between local artists and the public in the towns of Chatou, Carrières-sur-Seine, Croissy-sur-Seine, Houilles and Le Vésinet. In the autumn, visitors are invited to Carrières-sur-Seine to discover the artists and craftsmen with the “Au fil de l’art” trail. Every year in June it is le Marché de l’Art (the Art Market) that animates the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The organizers are keen to promote the diversity of styles and to enable the public to appreciate the multiplicity of expressions. Also noteworthy is the contemporary art fair held twice a year on the Ile des Impressionnistes in Chatou.
The Artists’ Houses
Many local artists work in the west of Paris, and this is not a recent phenomenon. Indeed, over the centuries, les artistes français célèbres (famous French artists) lived in Saint Germain Boucles de Seine and today their homes can be visited by the general public.
Alexandre Dumas, the famous French writer and author of the Three Musketeers, lived in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and then in Port-Marly from 1847. He had a splendid castle built there, nestled in a beautiful green setting with small lakes and waterfalls. The residence was conceived within a nine-hectare park designed in the English style with lawns, grottoes, rock gardens and rivers. Constructed in a neo-Renaissance style, the château has three floors and houses numerous rooms including a magnificent Moorish salon. The writer Alexandre Dumas chose to name his beautiful residence “le Château de Monte-Cristo” with reference to his second novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
André Derain, the famous painter and cofounder of the Fauvism art movement along with Henri Matisse, also lived part of his life in Saint Germain Boucles de Seine. It was in Chambourcy that the artist decided to buy a large house with a huge estate where he later set up his studio on the first floor. This 18th-century house where the painter lived has kept all its historical atmosphere.
If you walk through Saint-Germain-en-Laye, you should know that two other artists lived there and made their respective art come alive: Claude Debussy, the famous French composer, and Maurice Denis, the painter, theorist, decorator, engraver and art historian. The first, Claude Debussy, was born at 38 rue au Pain, while the second, Maurice Denis, took over the premises of an old hospital belonging to the town parish a few years later, building a studio and renaming the place “Prieuré.”
Keen to learn more about the region’s artists, artisans, and the rich cultural calendar? All year round, the Saint Germain Boucles de Seine Intercommunal Tourist Office organizes tours of these emblematic places. If you are interested in visiting one of the artists’ houses, please visit the website www.seine-saintgermain.fr or contact the tourist office by telephone, 01 30 87 20 63 or by e-mail: [email protected].
Lead photo credit : Bertille Hurard - Verrière's Portrait © Tourisme Saint Germain Boucles de Seine