The Montmartre Cemetery is known for housing bright and well-known creatives. Edgar Degas, a French artist famous for his drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures is buried here. The gravesite of Degas, labeled “Famille de Gas” is a larger-than-life-size standing metal box fixed with an engraved sculpture of his face placed in the center facing visitors. Degas began his career in Paris and then studied classical art in Italy. After training in this way to be a traditional painter he switched courses to focus on the contemporary subject matter. After returning to Paris Degas joined the group later known as the Impressionists. Though he despised the term “impressionist” in association with his work, he has been recognized as one of the founders of Impressionist art. Throughout the end of his life, he became isolated, lost his eyesight, and ceased working. He spent the last 5 years of his life nearly blind and he wandered the streets of Paris up until his death in 1917.
Hector Berlioz, a Romantic composer and one of music’s greatest innovators also lies at Montmartre. He composed pieces including the Symphonie fantastique, Harold in Italy, the Requiem, and L’Efance du Christ, as well as the operas Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens, and Béatrice et Bénédict. Throughout his time he held romanticism in his art by emphasizing originality and individuality in the freedom and emotional expression in his work. He was often told by multiple teachers and friends time and time again that he was a genius and not meant to continue on his current path to becoming a doctor, but should instead become a composer. Berlioz's unrequited affection for actress Harriet Smithson was his inspiration for Symphonie fantastique (1830). After his failed pursued romance with Smithson, he was then engaged to Marie Moke. Upon learning she had broken their engagement to go wed another, he escaped to Rome armed with pistols, poison, and a disguise in order to kill the newlyweds and then himself. He returned to Paris realizing his absurd situation and pursued another and continued to write music with a passion. His impact on music was monumental and is still regarded as a genius composer. After his death, the French Government argued that his remains should be buried in the Pantheon among other influencers imperative to their nation’s culture. However, his dying wish was to be buried among his two wives in Montmartre. His wish was granted, as he was buried along with Degas and other creatives.
Another creative buried in the cemetery was French singer and actress, Dalida. Born in Eygpt as Yolanda Christina Gigliotti, she moved to Paris in 1956 under her stage name “Dalida”. After beginning to perform music she was awarded a Gold Record for a million in sales in 1957 for her song, “Bambino”. She earned over 70 Gold Records throughout her career and was the first woman to receive a Platinum Record in France. She then received a Lifetime Achievement and gained her French citizenship. After grieving her partner’s suicide in 1967, she in turn attempted suicide and lived through many health complications throughout her life. At the end of her career she died due to an overdose after another relationship had failed, she wrote "Life has become unbearable ... forgive me." A corner in Paris, of the rue Girardon and rue de l’Abreuvoie in Montemarte, was named “Place Dalida” and a sculpture was placed at the site. Her gravesite at the Montmartre Cemetery is one of the most beautiful, as it is surrounded by fresh flowers, a beautiful sculpture of herself, and framing structures. The gravesite of Dalida, and others like Degas and Berlioz, do what they can to represent and respect great creative influences in France’s history—as gravesites like these make the cemetery what it is.
Cemeteries are more than housed bodies, they are representations of the creativeness and bright minds of the city. Just because Degas, Berlioz, and Dalida’s physical presence came to an end in Paris, doesn’t mean their legacy ceases to live on.