Paris

Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay houses one of the largest collections of Impressionist painting, with works by Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse, Degas and Renoir.

This exceptional museum of French Impressionist, post-impressionist and art nouveau art is housed in an absolutely marvellous location: the Gare d’Orsay, a masterpiece of art nouveau architecture, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900.

To realise the museum, an incredible reconversion work was carried out, leading the former railway station to become a museum of the highest level.

In fact, the Musée d’Orsay houses some of the most important French works, including the most famous Impressionist paintings.

The building

Located in the heart of Paris, along the Seine opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the Gare d’Orsay was designed by architect Victor Laoloux as a line terminal and was immediately popular for the sinuousness of its structure.

Unfortunately, it became obsolete in the 1930s, due to the increasing electrification of the French railway network and the small size of its platforms. It was later used as a sorting centre for postal packages during the Second World War.

A few years later it even risked demolition but a conversion project in the 1970s brought it back to life as a museum. In fact, the transformation of the station into a museum centre was entrusted to Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc and Jean-Paul Philippon, while the interior design was entrusted to the Italian architect Gae Aulenti.

The museum’s strong point lies in its interior space, an immense central nave hemmed in by rooms on five floors: in this way, the architects have created a vast 17,000 m2 area for the exhibition of works, which can be visited freely, without any precise spatial order.

The main hall, still guarded by the old station clock, has retained its central role, creating a sense of unity between the various expressions of art housed in the museum: painting, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, graphic arts and architecture.

Works

The Musée d’Orsay houses priceless works from the golden age of French art, between 1840 and 1914. Here you can admire some masterpieces from the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Art Nouveau movements.

But which works are not to be missed? If you are short of time, we have collected the most famous paintings for you to see.

Breakfast on the Grass by Édouard Manet

The greatest exponent of pre-impressionist painting, Édouard Manet, was overwhelmed by criticism and scandal when his painting was presented at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. The critics rejected the work, deeming it irreverent and scandalous, not only because of the presence of a naked woman in the midst of clothed men (the painter’s brother and his future brother-in-law), but also because of the use of a new painting technique, which abandoned traditional nuances to embrace sharp contrasts between light and shadow.

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette by August Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir‘s most famous work, it quickly became one of the symbols of the entire Impressionist movement. The work manages to reproduce the joyful atmosphere of a merry afternoon dance at the Moulin de la Galette, a bohemian restaurant opened in 1870 in an old windmill on Montmartre hill. His rapid, dense brushstrokes quickly became a hallmark of his art.

Self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh

Painted in 1889 in Provence, during his confinement at the Saint-Rémy asylum, the painting is one of many self-portraits by Vincent Van Gogh, who sought, through his painting technique, to desperately delve into the meanders of his identity, in a continuous inner search.

The work is in fact all about the face and in particular the gaze, which clearly reflect the suffering of the moment and a tormented personality.

The Dance Class by Edgar Degas

This is one of the many works that Edgar Degas dedicated to the dancers of the Paris Opera, which he often attended, even to watch the preparation of ballets backstage. It was here that his love for this theme was born and he went on to paint several canvases on dance. Soon ballerinas became his favourite subject, taken up in an incredible number of variations.

Starry Night on the Rhone by Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh lived for a time in Arles, Provence. On a late September evening in 1888, he decided to immortalise the reflections of the city lights and stars in the waters of the Rhone River.

Two Tahitian Women by Paul Gauguin

This is one of the most famous works by the French painter Paul Gauguin, a major exponent of the Postimpressionism movement.

After fleeing Western civilisation to take refuge in Mataiea, on the island of Tahiti, in search of a place of peace, Gauguin found his earthly paradise here: he was enraptured by the colours, the scents and the mild local people, who began to become the sole protagonists of his paintings.

The work depicts two indigenous women on the seashore caught and immortalised in the performance of daily activities.

Monet’s Poppies

One of Monet ‘s many canvases exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay, The Poppies, perfectly sums up the main characteristics of Impressionist painting: the bright, vivid colours, the perspective and the en plein air technique.

After moving in 1873 to Argenteuil, a charming little town on the banks of the Seine, the artist tried his hand at exploring the en plein air technique, i.e. in the open air, to portray bright and colourful landscapes.

Luxury, Calm and Voluptuousness by Henri Matisse

The work was painted by Henri Matisse in the winter between 1904 and 1905, but its genesis dates back to the previous summer, when the artist was on holiday in Saint-Tropez.

The work depicts a group of bathers on the seashore and takes its name from a famous couplet by Charles Baudelaire, in the poem ‘Invitation to a Journey’.

The Card Players by Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne is the greatest exponent of modern art, halfway between Impressionism and the first pictorial avant-gardes of the 20th century, a precursor of Cubism. In this work, the artist wanted to represent his difficult relationship with his father, who could not accept his son’s artistic life: a perennial game of parts and positions.

The Circus of Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat, widely regarded as the father of Pointillism and Divisionism, literally revolutionised painting with his innovative theories on colour.

The artist, who died at the age of only 31, left this last unfinished work, the third in a triptych dedicated to the attractions of modern society and night shows.

Collections

The Musée d’Orsay is rich in works, although considerably smaller than the Louvre Museum. Although it is well organised, the open space and the large number of works may give you a sense of disorientation. In fact, here you will find some of the greatest masterpieces of French art, all gathered in one place.

The pride of this museum is also that it has set up some educational sections to explain to visitors the historical, political, cinematographic and technological context of the periods covered by the works.

Furthermore, we would like to point out that the museum is constantly changing, thanks to an incessant process of acquisitions and changes in the arrangement of the works.

Art Nouveau

This artistic current, which originated with the Belgian architect and designer Victor Horta at the outbreak of the First World War, spread throughout Europe very quickly, invading not only traditional art but also design, jewellery, glassware, architecture and furniture.

Don’t miss Rupert Carabin‘s carved wooden bookcase.

Sculpture

Inside the museum is this remarkable collection of eclectic and varied sculptures such as Edgar Degas‘s Young Dancer aged 14, Auguste Rodin‘s The Gates of Hell, Camille Claudel‘s Age Mur, Carpeaux‘s Dance.

French Painting up to 1870

This collection contains all French works prior to the emergence of Impressionism in 1870: note some of the great Impressionist painters in earlier periods of maturity. The most outstanding works are Eugène Delacroix‘s The Lion Hunt, Jean-Dominiques Ingres ‘s The Spring and Edouard Manet‘s Olympia .

Impressionism

This is undoubtedly the most popular and most visited section of the museum and contains some of the greatest masterpieces of Impressionist art: Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, Cèzanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh. Don’t miss Monet‘s Blue Water Lilies, Gauguin‘s Breton Peasants, Cèzanne ‘s Still Life with Apples and Oranges and Gauguin‘s La belle Angèle.

Neo-Impressionism

You will also be enchanted by this section, which brings together an artistic period contemporary with and following Impressionism: Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Redon and Rousseau among the artists present. Look out for Jane Avril dancing by Toulouse-Lautrec, the Pont Aven paintings by Gauguin.

Naturalism and Symbolism

Naturalist and Symbolist works from the period between 1880 and 1900, with their dreamlike visions, are exhibited in this collection. Don’t miss Lionel Walden‘s Cardiff Docks, Henri Martin‘s Serenity, Delville ‘s Plato’s School and Homer‘s Summer Night.

Tickets

Discounted tickets with admission after 4.30pm and after 6pm on Thursdays. We recommend buying tickets online to avoid the perennial queues, especially at weekends.

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The Musée d'Orsay is home to France's national collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Art Nouveau works.Its majestic collection of elegant artworks from the Belle Epoque and beyond, coupled with its beautiful location inside a Beaux-Arts railway station on the banks of the Seine, make it one of the most stunning museums in the world.

Combined tickets

Guided tours

Visiting Hours and Days

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 09.30 to 18.00. Please note that the last admission to the museum is at 17.00, the last access to the exhibitions at 17.15 and the closure of the rooms starts at 17.30.

Every Thursday there is an extraordinary night opening until 9.45 p.m. Last admission to the museum and exhibitions at 9.00 p.m. and closing of the halls at 9.30 p.m.

The museum is closed on Mondays, 1 May and 25 December.

How to get there

The Musée d’Orsay is located in the Saint Germain des Prés district, nestled between Quai Anatole France and Rue de Lille, on the left bank of the Seine.

It can be conveniently reached by public transport:

Useful information

Address

Esplanade Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, 75007 Paris, France

Contacts

TEL: +33 1 40 49 48 14

Timetables

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 9:30 AM  -  6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 9:30 AM  -  6:00 PM
  • Thursday: 9:30 AM  -  9:45 PM
  • Friday: 9:30 AM  -  6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 9:30 AM  -  6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 9:30 AM  -  6:00 PM

Transports

Metro stops

  • Solferino (305 mt)
  • Concorde (742 mt)
  • Saint-Germain-des-Pres (879 mt)

Bus stops

  • Pont Royal - Quai Voltaire (206 mt)

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