Inside one of four known Kahlil Gibran apartments in Paris (1908-1910) as it stands today. This purpose built residential art quarters in the Montparnasse district was known to be bustling with activity well into the night as the many Painters, Sculptors and Actors who lived there went about refining their craft. The frontage of the apartments were all glass to maximise light. The wood used to construct the building was recycled from the scaffolding used to make the Eiffel Tower. In modern terms this would probably classify as a “Eco Green Build” a sign of the forward thinking of its architect and designers.
Gibran frustrated with the lack of adequate heating in the apartment during the cold winters, and the often noisy neighbours, moved out to a quieter and smaller residence closer to the Art School Julien were he studied art. This apartment was nicely located near the Luxembourg gardens we he often, walked, painted and sought solace.
Yusef Huwayyik an early school-hood friend from Beirut later recoiled his walks with Gibran in the garden:
“Now when I close my eyes, how quickly the memory of Gibran comes to my mind – his affectionate smile, warm voice, and expressive hands. I can see us walking to the Luxembourg Garden, turning left and sitting on the roof which overlooks the Palace and a part of the garden. I can hear the echo of Gibran’s voice in my ear, “We are in Paris, Yusuf! In this rich garden and on this road stretching before us walked many great learned men and artists. I can feel the presence of Puvis de Chavannes, Carrière, Balzac, Alfred de Musset, Victor Hugo, Pasteur, Curie, Taine and Renan. I feel as if I can trace their footprints on this road.”
This trend of escaping the harshness of big city life was replicated in New York’s Central Park were he’d often take midnight walks. One can also trace this theme to early childhood growing up in the lash natural surroundings of his home town B’cherre in Mount Lebanon.
I had the privilege of being the guest of the current resident (a Professor of Anthropology) who was a fan of his work with a few copies on the book shelf.
This illustration below made by Gibran in Paris in 1908 may well have be Gibran documenting his stay at the apartment.