Back across the Seine from the Tuileries, on the Left Bank, is the Musée d'Orsay. Formerly a train station, the Gare d’Orsay, until the late 1930s, this building has been turned into the one of the world’s pre-eminent art museums focusing on the Impressionists.
The interior space is wonderful, light and soaring due to the fact that it was a rail terminus. Architect Gae Aulenti transformed this space into a Museum in 1986. In my favourite movie, A Very Long Engagement, director Jean Pierre Jeunet is able to turn the gallery back into the train station circa 1920.
The reason we visit the Musée d'Orsay is that we love the Impressionists and Post- Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh. Our favourite self portrait of Van Gogh hangs here as does his Portrait of Dr. Gachet and the Church at Auvers.
The Musée d'Orsay has some of the world’s most famous impressionist paintings. Pierre-Auguste Renoir's — Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre is on exhibit. Monet is represented here with several paintings including Blue Waterlilies. Pissarro, Cezanne and Seurat are displayed as well.
Manet, the father of impressionism is here too. The incredibly famous and widely mimicked Dejeuner sur l’Herbe hangs in Room 38.
Manet’s superb Olympia is on display. It’s very hard to believe that critics in Manet’s day thought this painting was a travesty. The 1863 public showing of Olympia caused an outburst of angry public opinion. It was ridiculed to such an extent at the Paris Salon that Manet established his own salon, the Salon des Refusés.
One gallery attendee stated,
"a wretched model picked up from heaven knows where"
"a sort of female gorilla"
When interviewed the poet Theophile Gautier had nothing but harsh words for the painting.
"Olympia can be understood from no point of view, even if you take it for what it is, a puny model stretched out on a sheet. The color of the flesh is dirty, the modeling nonexistent."
How much our ideas and tastes have changed over the years.
Degas’ Little Dancer is there, cast in bronze and still wearing a faded pink tutu. Whistler’s Mother is here too.
If I only had a couple of days in Paris, which it seems I only ever do, I would recommend a visit to the Musée d'Orsay and save the Louvre for a longer holiday. I find it much more enjoyable, manageable and easier on the lower back.
9.30am to 6pm
9.30am to 9.45pm on Thursdays
Closed on Mondays
Full rate: € 8
Concessions: € 5.50 €
Under18s and members: free
1, rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris