Musée d'Orsay - Art

Musée d'Orsay - Art (59B)

The museum is organised on 3 floors and respects the original architecture of the station. It has more than 80 rooms or galleries and some 4,000 works on show. It also has temporary exhibition rooms, meeting room, auditorium, café and restaurant.

The collections in the Orsay Museum illustrate the art from the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century. They are not limited to just painting and drawing. You can also see photography, architectural projects, sculptures, furniture and art objects. 

Among the outstanding artists that can be admired in the Orsay Museum feature Ingres, Degas, Millet, Rodin, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Manet.

Among the sculpture, one of the works you should not miss is the magnificent plaster of Paris of the “Gate of Hell” by Rodin, a spectacular sculpture more than 6 metres high and 4 metres wide. 

On the very same spot as the Orsay station, in the 19th century the old Debtors’ Court stood. Burnt down in 1871, it was replaced by a Museum of Decorative Arts. For the entrance, in 1880 the State commissioned Rodin to build a monumental doorway. It should have been decorated with eleven bas-reliefs representing Dante’s Divine Comedy. 

Three years later the museum project was abandoned. So the door became a type of creative reserve for numerous later projects by Rodin such as The Thinker of The Kiss. If you look carefully, you will find them. 

The plaster of Paris from the Orsay Museum dates from 1917. Curiously, the Gate of Hell, in the end, is in the place that it was originally meant to be, but without fulfilling its function as a doorway.

Another sculpture we recommend is The Dance by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. In 1863, Garnier, the architect of the new Opera House of Paris, entrusted four different artists four different sculptural groups to decorate the façade of the building.  Carpeaux had to deal with the subject matter of Dance. And he created this group made in stone of 4 metres’ height and nearly 3 metres’ width. In it you can see a ring of women turning around the genius of dance. Concerned with expressing the sensation of movement, he achieved it brilliantly by means of a twofold dynamic, vertical and circular. 

However, on being exhibited for the first time, the realism of the female nudes caused a scandal, and a pot of ink was even thrown over the sculptural group and its removal was requested. Luckily, today you can enjoy it in all its splendour.

As regards painting, we recommend you see the strength and vigour of The tiger hunt by Delacroix, the provocative paintings of 1863, Olympia and The Picnic, both by Edouard Manet, the hyperrealist The origin of the World by Gustave Courbet, The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette which is without doubt Renoir’s most important work of the mid-1870s, or the Water lilies by Claude Monet.

Soak up the impressionism, naturalism, art nouveau, symbolism...Works that you will have seen in an infinite number of books, magazines and documentaries, and which now you can appreciate in all their splendour. 

And all in a really spectacular setting.

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