"Ronsin... that most distinguished site of Modernism." – John Russell
The Impasse Ronsin, tucked behind Montparnasse, was a crucible of postwar culture, a tight band of international artists who during the 1950s shared this ramshakle hamlet of ancient studios; Brancusi, resident since 1916, and his direct neighbours Max Ernst, Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, the American GI Jimmy Metcalf, Niki de Saint Phalle, Tinguely, and the patron saint William Copley. Artists had occupied the Impasse since the 1870s – indeed it was most notorious for the double murder in 1908 of an academic painter and his wife who was the secret mistress of the President himself – and it had changed little since. But now was truly its hour of glory, this group of bohemians hidden away in a historic corner of Paris, drinking, chiseling, cheating, smoking, welding and sexing. But more remarkable is the work they all produced and the long lineage, the lines of flight, of influence and inspiration that run through them, a genuine chain of casual connections, coincidence and congruence. No, obviously not a school or identifiable style but some sort of shared mission, in which one could equally argue the differences as the similarities. Of course these works exist by themselves, can be enjoyed in isolation, yet how intriguing to see them together, to link them as part of a larger, or smaller, history, as products of a group of people living and working in the same place at the same time, in daily contact, creative contagion. For here at the Impasse was surely forged a certain je ne sais quoi; a lightness of touch allied with flawless polished technique and an absolute lack of pretension, poetry, invention, symbolic, and actual storytelling even through abstraction, a wit the very enemy of pomposity, some veritable ésprit Ronsinian.