Thursday, June 15, 2023

Musée d'Orsay


After my horrible experience at the Musée de Quai Branley, I looked forward to going to a museum that I have wanted to see since it opened. On my last visit to Paris, in 1985, I found the Jue de Palme both wonderful and overwhelming. This trip, I anticipated my visit to the Musée d’Orsay with growing joy, and that day had finally arrived.

My ticket for the museum was timed for noon, so I used my morning to explore a little of the Left Bank. Leaving the Metro at the Solférino station, I walked along Blvd. Saint-Germain. One thing was clear right away, while the neighborhood used to be a hang-out for poor students, today it is very posh. The stores were high-end, and the restaurants were pricey.

While walking along I encountered Le Maison de l’Amerique latine (The Latin American House). This society was founded in 1946 to be a bridge between French and Latin American cultures. In the wake of the French Resistance, President Charles de Gaulle and the Dept. of Foreign Affairs wanted a place where people from France and Latin America could come together and learn about each other. The Maison occupies two 18th century mansions on Saint-Germain, along with their grounds and gardens. It is host to shows of artworks by Latin American artists. When I visited, the gallery was showing works by Chilean artist Eugenio Tellez (b. 1939). Tellez left Chile in the 1960’s and has worked with artists around the world. He has help directorial positions at workshops in Paris, Maine and Montreal. The works on display incorporate military imagery to explore the effects of civil, regional and world-wide conflicts.

Sacco et Vanzetti

Rescate Sauvetage

After touring the exhibit, I continued walking along Blvd. Saint-Germain, ending up at modern cafe called Noir. They serve an excellent latte, even if it was a little on the expensive side.

Church of Saint Thomas of Aquinas

The Musée d’Orsay is another museum where it really helps to order your ticket in advance. The crowds there are second only to The Louvre, and having a timed entry will allow you to by-pass the longest lines. The museum also has one of the most crowded and confusing entrances of any major museum I have visited. I entered through a vestibule that has been added to building, which holds the security check-point. From there, I passed into the old train station. The coat/bag check is down a narrow hallway that is very congested, with no clear distinction between those dropping off, and those picking up their belongings. But this is the only poorly planned section of what is an amazing museum.

The Musée d’Orsay is home to a collection of mostly French art, from the years 1848 through 1914. It has the largest collection of Impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world. The museum is housed in the old Gare d’Orsay, a train terminal built around 1900. It is a beautiful building, and the design takes full advantage of its structure. The center hall stretches over 100 meters in length, and offers a large open space to display many of the statues in the museum’s collection. There are several dozen galleries that line both sides of the station.

The Arlésienne by Vincent van Gogh

L'Averse by Paul Sérusier

Le Salle de Danse á Arles by Vincent van Gogh

Et L'or de leur Corps by Paul Gauguin

Le Lit by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

When I visited the Louvre, I had a plan of attack. I had chosen the works that I was most interested in, and then toured the museum going between those items. But I couldn’t do that for the d’Orsay. I love art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so I really wanted to see everything. I opted for the plan I use for small museums - I took the elevator to the top floor, and worked my way downstairs.This meant that sometime I was viewing work out of chronological order, or in and sequence other than the one that the curators intended. There is so much great art in the d’Orsay, and the timeline of their production was not important to me. Here are some of my favorites, although I actually photographed more than twice this number of works.

Le Cathédrale de Rouen by Claude Monet

Le Bassin aux Nymphéas by Claude Monet

Vue de Toits by Gustave Callebotte

Haystacks, End of Summer by Claude Monet

Danseuses montant un escalier by Edgar Degas

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Renior

Blue Dancers by Edgar Degas

Luncheon on the Grass by Édouard Manet

There were two special exhibits while I was visiting. One was a show of works done in pastels, those oil-based crayons that many artists use to draw with. (Through July 2)

Moissonneurs by Léon Lhermitte

Mother and Child by Mary Casset

The other was a show of works by Degas and Manet. These “frenemies” sometimes worked together, often argued, and painted many of the same scenes, each with own style. (Through July 23rd)

Madame Manet by Éduoard Manet

Portrait of Édouard and Madame Manet by Edgar Degas. The painting was torn by Manet because he felt that Degas painted his wife in a less than flattering way.

Olympia by Édouard Manet

Olympia (after Manet) by Paul Gaugan, bought by Degas

Repassueses by Edgar Degas

La Repos by Éduoard Manet

The Musée d’ Orsay is a must see, especially if you have an interest in the art produced between The French Revolution and World War I. It was a time of amazing growth and evolution in the European art world, and this is the place to really enjoy it. 

Study in Gray by James Whistler

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