Ever harbored a secret penchant for picking up a pencil, pastel, and palette and indulging your inner Picasso? The moment is now, at least for guests at the new Hôtel des Académies et des Arts, in Paris.
In addition to more traditional amenities, those in residence at this 20-room charmer on the Left Bank are invited to attend life-drawing classes at the renowned Académie de la Grande Chaumière, just across the street. By “life,” we mean nude, and the models are happy to travel to the hotel’s art studio as well, if you prefer to put pencil to paper without the watchful (judgmental?) eyes of more serious art students.
Pour la petite histoire (for the little backstory), as the French would say, l’Académie de la Grande Chaumière was founded in 1904 by the Catalan painter Claudio Castelucho. Eschewing the strict academic rules of painting of the École des Beaux-Arts, l’Académie offered instruction in drawing, painting, and sculpture, often using life models.
Its liberal attitudes and low fees quickly made it one of the most popular and influential art schools in Paris, with an alumni roster that includes everyone from Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Tsuguharu Foujita, Tamara de Lempicka, and Fernand Léger to Louise Bourgeois, Joan Miró, Chaïm Soutine, and Alexander Calder.
Even if you harbor no artistic aspirations whatsoever, this hotel offers a blissful bath in the enduring Left Bank bohemian sensibility that made Paris, well, Paris.
Interior designer Stéphanie Lizée, of the Lizée-Hugot Studio, which she runs with partner Raphael Hugot, avoided the usual boho decorative clichés of the Left Bank—bye-bye, nods to Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein—by zeroing in on what the neighborhood was like in the late 50s and 60s, the era of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin.
This smoldering period of art and music, just before the upheavals of the student protests of 1968, might be the last and truest expression of an unself-conscious artistic sensibility.
Lizée and Hugot commissioned several young artists to create dedicated works for the hotel. Parisian ceramist Maximilien Pellet did an earthenware panel based on one of his original drawings, while collage artist Charlotte Culot has contributed works to the hotel’s publicly exhibited collection. That also includes canvas-and-paper pieces based on geometric abstraction by self-taught artist Caroline Leseur, 3D-printer-produced works by Amsterdam-based Edith Beurskens, and sculpture by Marie-Laure André-Novak.
In short, there are a lot of reasons to stay at this appealing new hotel. An abundance of nude strangers is only the most obvious one.
Alexander Lobrano is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL. His latest book, the gastronomic coming-of-age story My Place at the Table, is out now