For decades the artists of Montmartre have dazzled sightseers with their rapidly delivered portraits, paintings of Parisian scenes, and cartoonish caricatures.

But now the painters are threatening to fold up their easels and relocate elsewhere in the French capital, accusing restaurateurs of encroaching on their space.

The street painters have been the focus of the neighborhood since the late 19th century.

About 300 artists share some 140 one-square-meter (about 3 square feet) plots in the Place du Tertre, perched high above Paris in the shadow of the Sacré-Cœur.

But in recent years they have felt squeezed by bistro and cafe terraces, and the busloads of tourists that pour into the square during the summer months.

In July, artists downed their brushes and protested in front of the local town hall against a new layout they say resulted in restaurants’ seating occupying up to 80 percent of the square.

No one was available at the 19th arrondissement’s town hall to comment on the artists’ complaints.

Other painters said the council was ignoring the painters’ concerns in pursuit of profiting from the restaurant trade.

Categories: Arts Fine Arts