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I've been living near Paris for about 10 months and each time I go into the city I try to visit a museum. The Musée D'Orsay is most definitely a favourite of mine and one I would recommend tourists in Paris to visit. Originally it was a palace, then a hotel and train station before being opened as a museum in 1986. It is a very beautiful building and very open planned creating a relaxed atmosphere. It's situated in the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine and is very easy to find. It can be reached on RER line C(yellow) and the nearest metro stop is just around the corner at Solférino (line 12.) The museum contains all forms of art including sculpture, photography and architecture but is probably most well-known for its collection of Impressionist art including work by Van Gough, Cézanne, Manet, Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec amongst others. There are special exhibitions on throughout the year that change every two months or so. I have seen two, the first being European masks and the second Sculpture in Paris 1905-1914. The latter is currently on display but finishes in the next few days. It is worth a look though if your in Paris at the moment. It is open everday except Monday and is free to under 18's, Euro5.50 for concessions (a concession in France is anyone 18-25) and Euro8 for everyone else so not that expensive at all. The Musée D'Orsay would be a good choice for people with children as the atmosphere is not at all stuffy and there are lots of different things for them to see, i.e. the museum doesn't focus on just one thing. Also, in comparison with the Louvre for example it is fairly small and so you don't necessarily have to spend the whole day there to see everything. Furthermore, it isn't as busy as the Louvre so you don't feel as though you are being herded around the building. There are enough different exhibits to ensure that there will be something of interest to everyone.
When we were in Paris with our children (aged 8 and 5) I must admit we decided that the Louvre would be too much, but the Musée d'Orsay was ideal. It's a fabulous, light building, airy and spacious, set inside the old Gare d'Orsay - the railway station just South of the Seine, near the Tuileries gardens. We bought a children's book about the museum (from the shop under the Louvre - the closest we got) in advance so that the children could take a look at what sort of things would be there - my Musée d'Orsay - we bought the French version, but they shop also sold it in English. We each chose two things that we wanted us all to look at, with an agreement that we could also each nominate up to two amazing things to stop and look at if we spotted them as we were going round. I know this sounds very prescriptive, but the worst thing in a place like this is overkill. With children (certainly with mine) it's a good idea for them to have a clear sense of what they are being asked to commit to doing, and to know that it's not going to go on forever, even if I could cheerfully stay there all day. It's very easy to feel that you have to get your money's worth, and then you can end up not really enjoying any of it. Which is hardly the point. The children's highlight was definitely the beautiful sculpture of the polar bear, who we named Pompom after the sculptor, but we saw all sorts of other treasures too and came away with a sense of real satisfaction and enjoyment. The cafe on the top floor was a must, as you're sitting up behind the clock, with amazing views of Paris below. It would be a shame to take your family to Paris and not see some of the wonderful art there, this is a great way to achieve that aim.
If you enjoy visiting art museums, Paris really is the place to go to. In the last 20 years or so, Paris museums re-organised their collections and the musée d'Orsay became the receptacle for art dated between 1848 and 1914. ~The Gare d'Orsay~ ****************** The building that houses the collection used to be a train station and hotel, which due to its proximity to the Louvre needed to be built sympathetically. Its inauguration in 1900 revealed a very fine building where the stone façade hid the metal structure inside. At the time, the painter Edouard Detaille wrote ""The station is superb and looks like a Palais des beaux-arts...". Little did he know that he was writing a prophesy After 1939, the progressive electrification of the railroads meant that the platforms were now too short to accommodate the new, longer electric trains, and the station was relegated to serving only the suburbs. The years that followed saw a number of uses for the station, from mailing centre for packages sent to prisoners during the second world war, to a film set (Kafka's 'The trial' by Orson Welles was filmed there). In 1978, the building was classified as a historical monument, and in 1986, François Mitterand, the then President of the Republic, inaugurated the new museum. The work that was undertaken to turn this old railway station into a museum was extremely successful What a stunning place! The outside is very much the way it must have been originally, but the inside area has been turned into the most fantastic space for displaying art. Despite being shaped like a tunnel, the first thing you notice about the musée d'Orsay is the amount of natural light penetrating the building. 35,000 square metres of glass overhead and at either end allow light to flood the space. The museum is built over 3 levels. On the ground level, a nave the height of the building houses a number of sculptures. There are a number of rooms to the side of this. Many features from the original building have been retained, and they are not the least appeal of the museum. I particularly liked the big clock (you can stand behind it and watch Paris through its glass). There are also some wonderful stained-glass windows in one of the restaurants. These features, being contemporary with the exhibits, serve as a wonderful backdrop. ~The visit~ ********** The museum is open everyday (except Monday) from 9.30 am to 6.00 pm, with a later closing time of 9.45 pm on a Thursday. Entry to the museum costs 7.50 , with a reduced tariff of 5.50 for young people from 18 to 25 years old and on Sundays or after 4.15 pm. Entry is free for the under 18. Everyone can also get in free on the first Sunday of every month, although I think it is worth paying the fee rather than facing the crowds that are bound to take advantage of this offer. The museum building being fairly recent, it is fully accessible to those who have a disability, and guided visits in sign language are available. As always with major museums, try to get there as early as you can. The queues at the museum can be somewhat lengthy, but do not be put off by this, as once the museum opens, they move fairly quickly and efficiently. The collections in the museum are presented by theme and in chronological order. The musée d'Orsay covers a period going from 1848 to 1914 and all major artistic movements are represented. The collection is divided into 4 categories: painting, sculpture, architecture and decorative arts. The visit starts on the ground floor, then goes on to the top level and finishes on the middle floor. It is a good idea to visit in this order as you are then able to view the works in a more or less chronological order, but on the other hand, the end of the visit is home to some of the most popular exhibits, in particular some impressionist works, and can get very busy indeed by the afternoon. If you want to do this museum justice, you will need to spend the best part of a day here. There are cafés where you can have a bite to eat, or if you want to do things in style, you could try the 'Restaurant du Musée d'Orsay' which serves unpretentious cuisine in beautiful surroundings, with its impressive frescoes and mouldings. ~The collection~ **************** This part of the review will have to be at best a brief overview as there are so many great works here, many of them being extremely famous. >>sculpture<< Most of these are on the ground floor, where full advantage is taken of the changing light afforded by the glass vault. I have to say sculpture is not one of my favourite media, but there is much here to be admired. Some of the sculptures exhibited were very scandalous when they were first shown to the public, such as the 'woman bitten by a snake', where the snake was only added as an afterthought, to hide the real reason for the woman's languid pose Look out for Degas' young 14 year-old dancer on the top floor, which questioned accepted ideas of art and was described as ugly at the time. >>paintings and pastels<< This represents the bulk of the exhibits and there are some real gems to be admired here. Grouped by aesthetic currents, the visit gives you a real overview of art at the time. There really are too many paintings to mention, but some of my personal favourites included 'The Angelus' by Jean-François Millet, some great Degas, Edouart Manet's 'The balcony', Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre by Renoir, and 'the siesta' and other Van Gogh paintings. There are also exhibits on architecture and decorative arts and photography, with notably a photograph of Charles Baudelaire dating back to 1855. ~Final thoughts~ **************** I really enjoyed visiting this museum, but found it a little much to take in over one day. As much as I enjoy art, I find that, after a while, tiredness and sensory overload combine to diminish my enjoyment of the works on offer. This meant that by the time I reached the end (the part I was most interested in), I was not as receptive as I should have been. This is a difficult one to solve, as I felt the order in which the visit was organised was really useful to help understanding how art evolved and the relationship between the different artistic movements. There is only one thing for it, I will have to visit again, this time going straight to my favourites I definitely recommend visiting the musée d'Orsay if you enjoy art or want to enjoy it. http://www.musee-orsay.fr
The Musee d'Orsay used to be the Gare d'Orsay, it has been converted from an old railway station into an art gallery. The building itself is on Rue Bellechasse and from the outside looks like an old railway station, of course many of the windows are now covered and the entrances closed. Inside is a different story as a mix of ideas and designs have transformed the interior into an interesting place to display art. You can expect to queue for a good half hour to get in but it is well worth it. If you are aged 18-25 it costs 33 francs and otherwise it will cost you 45 francs, £4.50, which makes it one of the more expensive attractions on offer. What do you get for your money? Well in this case you get access to some of the most famous art in the world, including paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Pisarro and Sisley. Entering into the main hall you will find a modern art style redesign of the old main hall of the station, the huge round windows at one end are retained but there are sculptures, seats and gantries which make the place look more interesting. I think some functionality has been sacrificed in order to make an architecturally interesting design inside as it is not terribly easy to find your way around, the signs seem to be quite misleading. The rooms off the main hall have old artworks, none of which interested me greatly, you have to climb up stairs to find the masters. The most popular artists who pull in the crowds have been displayed in consecutive rooms. It is liable to be very busy but some of the paintings are really superb, I wandered around spewing forth such arty critcism and analysis as 'That's nice' and 'What is that meant to be'. I have no real knowledge of art but I like to look at pretty pictures and 90% of the waffle in the artworld is pretentious rubbish anyway. In addition to the paintings there was a shop with nice prints on offer fairly cheaply as well as the usual array of pencils and stuff. There were also a few sculptures dotted around and displays of different architectural designs and furniture, I was pleased to see a Scot had made it in the shape of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Descending the stairs at the back left of the building there was a large display of models, all incredibly intricate. The other place worth visiting is the multimedia room, here you can select a terminal and check on all of the paintings in the museum. There is commentary available on each one and many have been explained and desconstructed so that you can see what the artist was trying to acheive. Some of the commentary is very illuminating and if you were looking for a specific painting then this would speed up the process. When we went in it was empty, and most people seemed to poke their head round the door sheepishly and assume they weren't supposed to use the computers before disappearing, so take advantage. You could probably spend a couple of hours here comfortably, alot more if you are into art. There was also a cafeteria which we avoided and I can only assume it would have been expensive, as they usually are in these places. There were guided tours available for groups and in fact large groups are only admmitted if they are part of a guided tour. Otherwise you could hire one of these headset things, in a variety of languages, that tells you stuff as you wander round. There are lifts and even some ramps so I think this would be suitable for the disabled to visit, all in all well worth a look.
Everybody knows about the Louvre and the Pompidou centre, but there is another major art gallery in Paris that just doen't seem to get the attention it deserves - the Musee d'Orsay. This museum was built at the end of the 19th century (by Victor Laloux), as a very high-class train station, its services fell into decline in the mid 20th century as the services at Gare du Nord and Austerlitz improved. In 1973 Georges Pompidou decided that the Gare d'Orsay should have a rather major face lift - and so it became an art gallery. I know the Louvre has the Mona Lisa, but you can't even get close to it because of the crowds of tourists. This place, even though its busy, has a slighty calmer atmosphere. All the main architectural features of the station remain, which is part of the charm of the place. Whenever I go there, I seem to meet nice, relaxing people, not the normal uptight Parisian. Your main reason for visiting this place is the art - and it is spectacular: There is a great Impressionists section containing Monet (of course), Renoir, Degas, Manet, Pissarro - you get the picture, also Neo- Impressionists - Seurat, Gauguin, Redon, Signac etc. There is also a section of the gallery devoted to the birth of cinema that is definitely worth a visit. The salons are seperated and marked clearly, so you can go straight to 1880-90 foreign school of symbolism - painting - if you wanted to. I always think I can get around a museum without a guidebook, and I'm always wrong. The guidebooks here are excellent and well worth the money. I can't emphasis enough how underated this place is; There are some beautiful works of art here and the should be honoured by your visit.