La Ruche is an absolutely confidential, totally bucolic and supremely charming Parisian art studio. If one comes here, it is certainly not by chance: the place is hidden by a high entrance gate covered with ivy and visits are not allowed.
La Ruche is to the left bank and Montparnasse what the Bateau Lavoir is to the right bank and Montmartre: an artists’ studio where the creative effervence has flourished for more than a century.
La Ruche is founded in 1900 under the aegis of Alfred Boucher, a modest sculptor who later became famous and wealthy.
Alfred Boucher, who has not forgotten his difficult beginnings, wishes to offer young underprivileged artists a place conducive to meditation and achievement in a climate of security.
He acquires a large plot of 5,000 square meters on Dantzig street, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, and buys the building which had housed the Bordeaux wine pavilion built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1900 Universal Exhibition.
He rebuilds – in the middle of this newly acquired bucolic land – the metal structure of the building, adds two floors. So is born “la Rotonde”. But “la Rotonde” is quickly nicknamed La Ruche (“The Beehive”), illustrating the abundant creation of the artists who settle there.
The entrance gate embellished with ivy also comes from the 1900 Universal Exhibition, since it adorned the Woman’s Pavilion. The caryatids of the rotunda building come from the Indonesian Pavilion.
From 1902, studios are built all around the rotunda. The 140 studios of La Ruche – 60 today – perfectly correspond to the ideal vision of the phalanstery, dear to Alfred Boucher.
In 1903, La Ruche is inaugurated and receives sculptors and painters from all over Europe: Léger, Soutine, Zadkine, Modigliani are among the first occupants of La Ruche. Chagall, Epstein, Laurens and many more will be staying at La Ruche. Writers also frequent the place: Max Jacob, Apollinaire or Blaise Cendrars, who dedicates a poem to La Ruche.
After WWI, Alfred Boucher is not successful anymore and money lacks to support La Ruche, which is in dire straits. Alfred Boucher dies in 1934 and when WWII breaks out, La Ruche – though ramshackle – resists, fighting the Nazi occupation.
At the end of the 1960s, La Ruche is in such a derelict state that the heirs of Alfred Boucher decide to sell it. But it is without counting with Chagall, who takes the chairmanship of La Ruche defense committee, soon joined by many personalities.
The La Ruche-Seydoux Foundation, established in 1985, definitively save the artists’ studio.