.All Trips / Europe / France

Paris’ amazing Orsay Museum

16 Paris 05-2013.  A day at the Orsa

The Orsay Museum is one of my favorite places in Paris!  It has a great location, situated on the Seine River in the center of the city, across from the Tuileries Garden.  The museum was built as the Orsay railway station (Gare), opening in 1900 for the Universal Exhibition.   By 1939 the station’s short platforms had become unsuitable for the longer trains that were then being used and it was largely abandoned.  In 1970, permission was granted to demolish the station but it was saved with the hope that it could be converted to a hotel.   The need for an art museum to house Paris’ extensive collections of Impressionist art sparked the idea to convert the Orsay into a National Art Museum.  It was remodeled and successfully re-opened in 1986, now hosting almost 3.5 million visitors per year.

Pierre Auguste Renoir. The Country Dance. Part of the Orsay's collection.

Pierre Auguste Renoir. The Country Dance. Part of the Orsay’s collection.

The Musée d’Orsay showcases a large variety of art created between 1848 and 1914.  This art was transferred to the Orsay from the Louvre museum, the Musée du Jeu de Paume, and the National Museum of Modern Art.  As such, the Orsay is home to the world’s largest and most prestigious collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works including dozens of canvases each by Manet, MonetDegas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and many more.

Vincent van Gogh, self-portrait. Part of the Orsay's collection

Vincent van Gogh, self-portrait. Part of the Orsay’s collection

Photography is not allowed within the museum proper, so I have few photos except some long shots of the central gallery, wherein you find an amazing collection of 19th and early 20th century sculptures. These are largely housed in the portion of the museum where trains rolled through a century ago.

The Orsay also has a number of beautiful clocks, including this one magnificent one viewed from the central gallery.  You can gain access to the roof-top terrace of the Orsay and enjoy memorable views of Paris, especially of Seine and distant Montmartre….

I’d recommend spending at least a half day at the Orsay even if you have little interest in art, and a full day if you wish to explore its treasure of Impressionist paintings.  For years I had trouble understanding what’s so special about the Impressionist movement, but it took only an hour at the Orsay to “get it”.  It will be one of the first places I return to the next time I visit Paris.

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