Musee D'orsay, Paris -10/4/2015

View of Musee Musée d'Orsay from the right bank of the river Seine.
The Musée d'Orsay is located on the left bank of the Seine and is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898-1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
Internationally renowned for its rich collection of Impressionist art, the Musée d'Orsay also displays all Western artistic creation from 1848 to 1914. Its collections represent all expressive forms, from painting to architecture, as well as sculpture, the decorative arts and photography.

 It was originally built in 1900 to be a train station but was closed in 1939 when its platforms became too small for the long trains of modern times.  It was reopened in 1986 as a museum featuring art produced between 1848 and 1914, the time period of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists. Most of the art in the Louvre is before 1848 and most of the modern art in the Pompidou Center is after 1914.



The transformation of the station into a museum was accomplished by ACT architecture group, made up of M. Bardon, M. Colboc and M. Philippon. Their project was chosen in 1979 out of six propositions, and would respect Laloux's architecture while nonetheless reinterpreting it according to its new function.

The project highlighted the great hall, using it as the main artery of the visit, and transformed the magnificent glass awning into the museum's entrance.


The museum has been organized on three levels: on the ground floor, galleries are distributed on either side of the central nave, which is overlooked by the terraces of the median level, these in turn opening up into additional exhibition galleries. The top floor is installed above the lobby, which covers the length of the Quai, and continues into the highest elevations of the former hotel, over the rue de la Légion d'Honneur (formerly rue de Bellechasse).

Here I am at the farthest part of the museum and this area there are a lot of sculptures.

View from the end of the museum to the main entrance.

Large sculpture of Les quatre parties du monde soutenant la sphere celestre (The Four Parts of the World Holding the Celestial Sphere) by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux -1872

Baron Haussmann, the prefect of Paris who gave the city the face we know today, commissioned Carpeaux to design a fountain for the Observatory Garden in 1867. The sculptor chose the theme of the four parts of the world turning around the celestial sphere.
Not only are the four allegories dancing in a ring, but they are also revolving on the spot. Europe scarcely touches the ground, Asia, with her long pigtail, is seen almost from the back, Africa is in a three-quarter view and America, wearing a feather headdress, is facing the spectator but her body is turned to the side.

Impressive Clock by architect Victor Laloux (1898-1900) and can be seen in the Main Hall.


L'Age mûr -Maturity by Camille Claudel- 1902-Bronze group in three parts.
After the break between Camille Claudel and Rodin, the latter tried to help Camille indirectly and obtained a state commission for her from the Director of Fine Arts.

The sculpture evokes Rodin's hesitation between his former mistress, who finally wins the day, and Camille who is reaching forward to stop him leaving. Beyond the details of her personal history, Camille has produced a thought-provoking symbolic work about human relationships. She included herself in the group in the figure she called The Imploring Woman, pinpointing the tragic side of her destiny.

Hercules the Archer by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle

Not only the hero's victory over the monsters, but also Bourdelle's victory over his own high-spirited inspiration, this work is remarkable both for its tension and for its balanced construction. The dynamics come from the interaction of solids and voids, brutal force and balance. The nude figure denotes power, high-strung energy, pulled taut between the arm bending the bow and the foot braced against the rock.


Imperial France Bringing Light to the World and Protecting Agriculture and Science was executed from 1863 to 1866 by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.

This sculpture was ordered in 1863 for the Pavilion de Flore in the new Louvre, in Musée de Sculpture comparée of Trocadéro from 1892, in Louvre from 1927, presently in the Musée d'Orsay


Des Glaneuses dit assi Les Glaneuses - The Gleaners - by Jean Francois Millet-Greville completed in 1857

Oil on Canvas Painted on the plain de Chailly close to Barbixon.  Millet worked on this theme since 1852.

 It depicts three peasant women gleaning a field of stray grains of wheat after the harvest. The painting is famous for featuring in a sympathetic way what were then the lowest ranks of rural society; this was received poorly by the French upper classes.

Jules Breton -Le rappel des glaneuses - The Recall of the Gleaners by Jules Breton -1853 oil on canvas.

Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton (1827–1906) was a 19th-century French Realist painter. His paintings are heavily influenced by the French countryside and his absorption of traditional methods of painting helped make Jules Breton one of the primary transmitters of the beauty and idyllic vision of rural existence.


Boeuf allant au labour, effet de matin-Cattle Going to Work, Morning effect-1855 by Constant Troyon.

In 1846, Troyon travelled to the Netherlands, where he saw the cattle paintings of Paulus Potter, and studied the works of the Dutch Masters. As a result, his subject matter and style changed, and he concentrated on painting farm animals in landscapes. These quickly became very successful, and he was awarded a total of five medals for his paintings shown in the Paris Salon, and the Legion of Honor.  In this painting Troyon painted by incorporating the morning light and captured the steamy breath of cattle Going to Work.


Retour de la peche, return from fishing by Joaquín Sorolla- 1894

Though his youth was riddled with sorrow and tragedy, Sorolla somehow managed to become one of the greatest painters of light, joy and beauty in his time. Known for the way he captured beauty and light in his outdoor scenes, and grace and dignity in his portraiture's, Sorolla is also one of the least recognized artists amongst his contemporaries.


One of the clock view from inside the museum- this is on the 5th floor.


Actually, there are two clocks built into the north side of the D’Orsay Museum (which you can see it the 1st picture on this page). This is the view of the clock from the inside  facing the Seine and in the distance you can see Montmartre.



We are now entering the Impressionist gallery


The large gallery on the fifth floor is devoted to Impressionism has been truly transformed. Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte  modified the design of the museum, to improve the lighting and to re-examine the delicate dialogue between display cases and colored walls. However he choose to leave the open metal structures which was the original theme of Victor Laloux's architecture in 1900 and though the look has been preserved.


Dark wood flooring, and the walls are painted in a delicate grey allowing a full appreciation of all the chromatic nuances in the paintings which is also enhanced by the new lighting system. The sculptures benefit from more discreet, well-spaced display cabinets.


Portrait of Emile Zola by Edouard Manet.

Painted in 1868 in a palette reminiscent of his scandalous Luncheon on the Grass, this very formal portrait of Émile Zola, the rising novelist and tireless defender and of The Impressionists, represents the writer a year after the publication of his first novel Thérèse Raquin. The book was a commercial and artistic, although not a critical success for Zola.

Claude Monet -Woman with a parasol facing left 1886
The Impressionist work depicts his wife Camille Monet and their son Jean Monet in the period from 1871 to 1877 while they were living in Argenteuil, capturing a moment on a stroll on a windy summer's day.


Bal du moulin de la Galette -Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre August Renoir


This painting is doubtless Renoir's most important work of the mid 1870's and was shown at the Impressionist exhibition in 1877. Though some of his friends appear in the picture, Renoir's main aim was to convey the vivacious and joyful atmosphere of this popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre. The study of the moving crowd, bathed in natural and artificial light, is handled using vibrant, brightly colored brushstrokes. The somewhat blurred impression of the scene prompted negative reactions from contemporary critics.
This portrayal of popular Parisian life, with its innovative style and imposing format, a sign of Renoir's artistic ambition, is one of the masterpieces of early Impressionism.


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe, dit aussi La Partie Carree-Luncheon on the grass-1863- by Edouard Manet

The painting is depicting a female nude and a scantily dressed female bather on a picnic with two fully dressed men in a rural setting. Rejected by the Salon jury of 1863, Manet seized the opportunity to exhibit this and two other paintings in the 1863 Salon des Refusés where the painting sparked public notoriety and controversy.


Grosse mer at Etretat -Big Sea at Étretat-1883- Claude Monet

Grosse mer, painted in 1883, is one of Monet’s vivid depictions of the Normandy coast. The towering cliff face and agitated sea are depicted in bright tones, energetically applied in swift, flickering brushstrokes, while the brilliant blue sky casts the unmistakable form of the Porte d’Amont into relief. During the period in which the present work was created Monet was enraptured by the cliffs at Etretat, depicting them from numerous angles and in varying weather conditions.  Of all the places he visited on the coast, several became his most frequented - Pourville, Varengeville, Etretat, and Dieppe. Their appeal lay primarily in their dramatic cliffs and stretches of beach, their simplicity, starkness, and past history.


Les raboteurs de parket-The floor planers- Gustave Caillebotte-1875

This painting is one of the first représentation of urban prolétariat. Where as peasants (Gleaners by Millet) or country workers (Stone Breakers by Courbet) had often been shown, city workers had seldom been painted. Unlike Courbet or Millet, Caillebotte does not incorporate any social, moral or political message in his work. His thorough documentary study (gestures, tools, accessories) justifies his position among the most accomplished realists.

Caillebotte presented his painting at the 1875 Salon. The Jury, no doubt shocked by its crude realism, rejected it (some critics talked of "vulgar subject matter"). The young painter then decided to join the impressionists and presented his painting at the second exhibition of the group in 1876, where Degas exhibited his first Ironers. Critics were struck by this great modern tableau, Zola, in particular, although he condemned this "painting that is so accurate that it makes it bourgeois".

Les coquelicots a Argenteuil- Poppy fields in Argenteuil-Claude Monet -1873
When Monet returned from England in 1871, he settled in Argenteuil and lived there until 1878. These years were a time of fulfilment for him. Supported by his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, Monet found in the region around his home the bright landscapes which enabled him to explore the potential of plein-air painting.
He showed Poppy Field to the public at the first Impressionist exhibition held in the photographer Nadar's disused studio in 1874. Now one of the world's most famous paintings, it conjures up the vibrant atmosphere of a stroll through the fields on a summer's day.
Monet diluted the contours and constructed a colourful rhythm with blobs of paint starting from a sprinkling of poppies; the disproportionately large patches in the foreground indicate the primacy he put on visual impression. A step towards abstraction had been taken. In the landscape, a mother and child pair in the foreground and another in the background are merely a pretext for drawing the diagonal line that structures the painting. Two separate colour zones are established, one dominated by red, the other by a bluish green. The young woman with the sunshade and the child in the foreground are probably the artist's wife, Camille, and their son Jean.


Petite danseuse de quatorze ans dit assi Grande danseuse habillee- Small Dancer Aged 14 by Edgar Dega.

Naturally coloured, fitted with real hair, dressed in a tutu and real dancing slippers, it was an example of hyperrealism, verism taken to the extreme. Presented in a showcase like a specimen in the museum, it revealed a Degas bordering on the anthropologist or a naturalist. The critics were not mistaken: the work was violently accused of representing the girl in a bestial manner; she was compared to a monkey or an Aztec; she had a face "on which all the vices imprint their detestable promises, the mark of a particularly vicious character".  Degas thus took realism to its logical conclusion by depicting the society of his time in a barefaced almost scientific way with no shade of hypocrisy. The bronze edition made after his death, including the copy in the Musée d'Orsay, tried to preserve the characteristics of the wax statue as much as possible. The glass cage is the only element that Degas himself wanted, asserting the Dancer's status as a work of art.

When Degas died in 1917, 150 wax or clay sculptures were found in his studio. These statues had remained more or less unknown to the public while the artist was alive, except for Dancer Aged 14 which Degas had shown in the Impressionist exhibition in 1881.


 Degas regularly went to the Paris opera house, not only as a member of the audience, but as a visitor backstage and in the dance studio, where he introduced by a friend who played in the orchestra. At that time, the opera was still housed in the rue Le Peletier and had not yet moved to the building designed by Garnier which was soon to replace it. From the 1870s until his death, Degas's favorite subjects were ballerinas at work, in rehearsal or at rest, and he tirelessly explored the theme with many variations in posture and gesture.

La Classe de danse-The Ballet Class

Degas closely observed the most spontaneous, natural, ordinary gestures, the pauses when concentration is relaxed and the body slumps after the exhausting effort of practicing and the implacable rigor of the class.

Degas is most known for his works which depict dancers. While most of these paintings show dancers rehearsing, this one focuses on a lone ballerina on the stage completing an arabesque. Behind her is a dark figure, who is probably her patron who owns and controls her. But for the moment the young ballerina is basking in the glory of her successful performance. By this stage of his career Degas had become a master in capturing the movements of dancers and this painting is among his most famous works on dancers.

This area is where Van Gogh paintings are on display.


La nuit étoilée-Starry Night - by Vincent Van Gogh - Arles -1888

Starry Night Over the Rhone was painted at a spot on the bank of the Rhone River that was only a one or two-minute walk from the Yellow House on the Place Lamartine which Van Gogh was renting at the time. From the moment of his arrival in Arles, on 8 February 1888, Van Gogh was constantly preoccupied with the representation of "night effects". In April 1888, he wrote to his brother Theo: "I need a starry night with cypresses or maybe above a field of ripe wheat." In June, he confided to the painter Emile Bernard: "But when shall I ever paint the Starry Sky, this painting that keeps haunting me" and, in September, in a letter to his sister, he evoked the same subject: "Often it seems to me night is even more richly coloured than day". During the same month of September, he finally realized his obsessive project.

Vincent's Bedroom in Arles


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