There is so much to see and do when you go to Paris that it’s important to prioritize. We were planning on going into the city on the weekends, just day trips, as we had our cat-sitting duties in Senlis. We had been to Versailles and the Eiffel Tower on our previous visit in 2004. This time I wanted to see some of the iconic art in the various museums.
No, we didn’t go into the Louvre. Mainly because it’s so enormous (and crowded), and even taking an entire day we would only see a fraction of the collection. We decided to concentrate on the Impressionists and so our first day in Paris would be the Musée de l’Orangerie (The Orangerie) and the Musée d’Orsay. Their collections of Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, and Van Gogh are the finest in the world. (Okay, Van Gogh is considered Post-Impressionist, for the sticklers.)
Monet’s Water Lilies
The main attraction at L’Orangerie are the two rooms dedicated to Monet’s “Nympheas” series. There are eight large panels, each with it’s own name, generally reflecting the time of day. They are enormous and gorgeous. Each room has a sign asking for quiet and describing the room as a meditative space. The security people have the added task of “professional shusher” as they will start shushing when the rooms get too loud.
Later in August we were able to go to Giverny and see the gardens that inspired Monet’s paintings. A nice bookend to our Monet experience. Read the post here (Lots of pictures!)
Les Arts À Paris
Downstairs at L’Orangerie is the collection called, “Les Arts à Paris.” This was the personal collection of the art dealer and collector, Paul Guillaume. It focuses on the period between the two world wars.
There’s an adorable diorama depicting Guillaume’s study with miniature versions of the artworks that are displayed (full-sized) on the walls.
If You Go to L’Orangerie…
We did not heed the advice online and purchase advanced, timed tickets. This was our first trip into Paris and we didn’t know how long the train would take, etc. Turns out, the timed tickets were sold out for two weeks in advance! We decided to just wait in line and, possibly thanks to the rain, the crowd was light and we were inside in about an hour. Another thing we found out later that day is that there is a combination ticket for L’Orangeris and Musee d’Orsay that would have saved us a few Euros, since we were seeing both that day. C’est la vie!
The L’Orangerie is located in the western corner of the Jardin des Tuileries, across from the Place de la Concorde. We took the bus from Gare du Nord to the Place Vendome entrance of the gardens and walked through, which was lovely. They were having a carnival that day, rather a surprise and a bit out of place in a 16th century garden.
On to the Musée d’Orsay
A short walk from L’Orangerie, across the Seine is the Musée d’Orsay. The combination with L’Orangerie is easily done in a single day. The museum collection has more Monets, plus Manet, Degas, Renoir, Gaugin, and much more. It also has several (post-Impressionist) works by Van Gogh, such as several of his self-portraits and one of the starry night series.
The museum is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay railway station, built in 1900 and opened for the 1900 Paris Exhibition. The building itself is a work of art.
As you walk through, it seems that everywhere you look is a famous and familiar painting. Truly impressive.
A Special Collection of Cats
When we visited there was a special, temporary collection of cat artworks, Accro-chat-age, with drawings by Édouard Manet, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, and Françoise Pétrovitch. This section of pictures is for my many cat-loving friends.
And Don’t Forget the Sculptures
The main level, previously the train platform, displays a portion of the museum’s more than 1,400 pieces of sculpture.
Outside the entrance to the museum you’ll find the Six Continents. This series was created for the 1878 Word’s Fair. Each female figure represents one of the continents (sorry, Antarctica). As art, they are incredibly detailed and realistic, but come on… why are they all bare-breasted, except for Europe? Odd fact, these statues spent several decades languishing in a rubbish dump in Nantes from the 1960s until restored to the esplanade in front of the museum.
If You Go to the Musée d’Orsay…
Once again we did not buy our tickets in advance. In this case, it was not a problem and we waited less than 30 minutes to get into the museum, just after lunchtime. There are elevators that can take you to the top floor, but they are a bit hidden, check the floorplan right after you pass through the ticketing area. Or you can just take the stairs.
Art is Everywhere You Look
As we walked around Paris over the next few Saturdays, we saw amazing art everywhere. There are statues and fountains all around. I’ve saved the architecture for a separate post, but here are just a few of the impressive pieces we ran across.
Next up, architecture.