Paris in 1904--or at least the Montmartre section, where the artists lived--was still truly Bohemia as Henri Murger had described it a full generation before. There the well-to-do could live in a de-luxe furnished apartment (one with plumbing) or a luxurious heated studio of great size for five francs (then $1.25) a day, while the poor artist--like Max Weber, who came from America in 1905--could find a ground-floor studio in which to work and live at $20 a year.
As Elizabeth McCausland has observed, "No student ever had to starve; Parisians were full of trust. . . . The baker would be leaving rolls and milk at the door every morning."1 It was village life in a city. Paris, not unlike New York, was a series of districts, each with the sense of a self-contained neighborhood. For all their sharpness and frugality in money matters, the French, being affectionate, are capable of the most amiable lenience. The familiar story of the artist who exchanges drawings and paintings for meals and wine at the corner bistro is more than a romantic tale. It happened then; it even happens today; and many of the artists most famous today knew the time when they held body and soul together by such apparently inequitable barter.
The restaurant-keepers of course held on to the unnegotiable canvases. After all, they were art; they were real paintings done on real canvas by a real artist--"I knew him. He lived only three doors from here." Suddenly the artist was famous. He had long since gone away. Dealers were knocking at the restaurant-keeper's door. He would take his sudden good fortune in the same calm way in which he had given the meals with no prospect of cash. No one would ever know if he had been astute or only remarkably lucky.____________________