Paris Arts: Musee d’Orsay Review – A Magnificent, Mesmerizing, Collection

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Prior to the Coronavirus lockdown, I enjoyed three days in Paris, France, strolling the streets, taking in the sights, and of course visiting the museums which travelers the world over flock to the city of lights to savor.

 

The Louvre the world's largest museum was on my list, however after a scheduling mix-up the scheduled appointment had passed and for this short visit changing my schedule to see  De Vinci's Mona Lisa and the Egyptian Antiquities, however stunning, and maneuver the crowds which have been known to force museum closings, I felt the art deserved more time than my short visit allowed.

The Grand Hallway at the Musee d'Orsay

So it was off to the Musee d'Orsay, the Orsay Museum, which was created after The Louvre moved its collection of late 19th and early 20th Century Art.


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This included many famous Impressionist and post-Impressionist master's, along with equally famous sculpture, miniatures, Chinese ceramics, Orientalism, drawings, photography and other works.

Level Two Sculpture - Musee d'Orsay

The Museum is architecturally stunning. A former railroad station, the high arched glass ceiling, Beaux-Arts, the style of architecture made famous in Paris in the late 19th Century. The Grand Hall is spectacular, visually striking.

Inaugurated in 1900 for the World's Fair, it allowed the travelers of all the southwest of France to reach the capital.


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Also included within the building were a luxurious hotel and a grand reception room. With the modernization of trains, the station was gradually abandoned.

In 1986 the Musée d'Orsay was inaugurated. The museum presents, in all its diversity, the evolution of the western world art from 1848 to 1914, from the succession of the 2nd Republic to the start of World War I.

Of course, as it is a museum, the collections are located to maximize their aesthetic value.

With very limited knowledge of stone sculpture, the collection was unmatched and more it was absorbing. The attention to detail and time-consuming intricacy of each movement. To sculpt, out of stone one must see the work, be led by a vision of a completed piece with almost an innate inner instinct.

I found myself transfixed by Auguste Rodin's Dante's Divine Comedy, The Gates of Hell, a massive stone piece which depicted various levels of purgatory each character attempting to escape his doom.

Auguste Rodin's The Gates of Hell

Described by the Museum, "Inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, Rodin sculpted The Gates of Hell. It was meant to serve as the entrance to a Decorative Arts Museum that was never built. Consequently, Rodin continued to refine the work for 37 years, until his death in 1917. In total, 180 figures are represented in the work, most of them in tortured poses."

"Rodin," the brochure read, "enlarged some of the figures into individual sculptures, including perhaps his most famous work, The Thinker. Notice the position of The Thinker above the tall doorway. He is meant to be viewed from below, which explains why so many installations place The Thinker on a high viewing platform. What you see here, at the Musée d'Orsay, is the plaster original. A number of bronze casts have been made and distributed around the world."

Other sculptures represented in the collection include those created by Alfred Barye, François Rude, Jules Cavelier, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Émile-Coriolan Guillemin, Paul Gauguin, Camille Claudel, Sarah Bernhardt and Honoré Daumier.

As a former New Yorker, the Metropolitan Museum of Art had often been a hiding place of sorts and after wandering the Egyptian collection I inevitably ended up in front of Vincent van Gogh's Wheat Field's in Cyprus. That single piece imprinted his work on my soul and knowing him and his work became a passion.

Noon Rest by Vincent van Gogh

The Musee d'Orsay houses the Van Gogh collection. During my visit pieces of the collection had been on a traveling exhibition to the Tate Britain.


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As I made my way to the collection I could see, I wasn't alone in appreciation of the master's work.

Thatched Cottages at Cordeville by Vincent van Gogh

The museum also holds significant permanent displays of Impressionist painters Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac. Post-Impressionist painter's Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, Paul Sérusier are also housed on the fifth floor.

Orientalism Art

Van Gogh, Gauguin, Odilan Redon are housed in the Gallery Françoise Cachin also on the fifth floor.

The museum holds many exhibitions, each significant to a time, place an idea. Walking through the galleries, hallways leading into collections of artistic expression, an awakening of sorts as to the vastness of expression and more, the dedication artists show in undertaking projects which when the canvas is blank, or the stone square, or the vision survives only in the mind or on paper, an divine guidance breathes life into each day as these master build, craft, sculpt and create.

The Musee d'Orsay also has on permanent display a scale model of the city of lights, a Miniature Paris, housed under a glass floor. The scale model displays are created as if an architect would use to present an image of the completed work. Intricate, precise to the most minor detail. The work was incredible.

Scale Model of Paris

With five floors of artistic expression, when visiting leave a day to wander and enjoy each display the Musee d'Orsay offers.


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Current restriction due to the Coronavirus pandemic call for face masks for all, which the museum does not provide.

The museum is currently open. Please check the link below before visiting.

For more information: https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/visit/welcome.html

All images photographed by Janet Walker.

Entrance to Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

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