The Musée d’Orsay is an art museum in Paris mainly focused on Impressionist and post-Impressionist painting.
The museum is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay railway station (once also called Gare d’Orléans). Dating back to 1900, the station was built after a design by architect Victor Laloux on the site of the ruined Palais d’Orsay palace, after which it took its name.
After 1939, the rail station became outdated and unfit for modern electric trains, progressively losing its original function. Therefore, in 1975, the French Government took the decision to transform the old station’s disused building into a museum dedicated to the art of the second half of the 19th century.
The architectural renovation of the building was designed by French architects M. Bardon, M. Colboc and M. Philippon, while the museum’s interior design and museography were developed by an Italian team which included architects Gae Aulenti, Italo Rota (graphic design), and Pierluigi Castiglioni (lighting design); the new Musée d’Orsay opened its doors on December 1, 1986.
Between 2009 and 2012, an ambitious redesign and reorganization project of the museum’s galleries and interior spaces, called Nouvel Orsay, was carried out by a group of French and international designers, including Jean Nouvel, Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Dominique Brand, and the Campana brothers.
Historical photo of the old Gare d’Orsay (also called Gare D’Orléans); image: laloux
Collections and permanent exhibition
The collections of the Musée d’Orsay comprise paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, objects of applied arts, and architectural drawings and models, dating from 1848 to 1914.
The museum of arguably most known for its collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist painting, which includes masterpieces by French artists – including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Eugene Delacroix, Camille Pissarro, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Pierre Bonnard -, as well as by international ones, such as Vincent Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Edvard Munch, Gustav Klimt, and Piet Mondrian, among others.
Sculptures on view in the museum include works mostly by French artists, including notable pieces by Edgar Degas, Aristide Maillol, and Auguste Rodin.
The collection of applied and decorative arts mainly features furniture, silverware, clocks, pottery, and glassware.
Fully accessible to physically-impaired people, the Musée d’Orsay also includes temporary exhibition spaces, a 347-seat auditorium, a restaurant, two cafes, and a book and gift shop.
The central nave of the Musée d’Osay; photo: Yann Caradec
One of the two iconic clocks installed in the central nave; photo: Михал Орела
One of the Impressionist galleries of the museum renovated in 2011; photo courtesy of Musée d’Orsay
Musée d’Orsay, the Café Campana; photo: Shadowgate
Edouard Manet, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), 1863, oil on canvas; photo: Rory
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (also called Portrait of the Artist’s Mother), 1871, oil on canvas; photo: Gabriel Millos
Edgar Degas, Répétition d’un ballet sur la scène (Ballet Rehearsal on Stage), 1874, oil on canvas; photo. Terretta
Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1889, oil on canvas; photo: Benjamin Penders
Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas, harmonie verte (Water Lily Pond, Green Harmony), 1899, oil on canvas; photo. Maia C
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