The Musée d’Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum’s opening in 1986. It is one of the largest art museums in Europe.
A museum in a station
The history of the museum, of its building is quite unusual. In the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first “work of art” in the Musee d’Orsay, which displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.
“The station is superb and looks like a Palais des beaux-arts…” wrote the painter Edouard Detaille in 1900. Eighty-six years later, his prophecy was fulfilled.
The transformation of the station into a museum was accomplished by ACT architecture group, made up of M. Bardon, M. Colboc and M. Philippon. Their project was chosen in 1979 out of six propositions, and would respect Laloux’s architecture while nonetheless reinterpreting it according to its new function. The project highlighted the great hall, using it as the main artery of the visit, and transformed the magnificent glass awning into the museum’s entrance.
The museum has been organised on three levels: on the ground floor, galleries are distributed on either side of the central nave, which is overlooked by the terraces of the median level, these in turn opening up into additional exhibition galleries. The top floor is installed above the lobby, which covers the length of the Quai, and continues into the highest elevations of the former hotel, over the rue de la Légion d’Honneur (formerly rue de Bellechasse).
The museum’s specific exhibition spaces and different facilities are distributed throughout the three levels: the pavilion Amont, the glass walkway of the former station’s western pinion, the museum restaurant (installed in the dining hall of the former hotel), the Café des Hauteurs, the bookshop and the auditorium.
Major sculptors represented in the collection include Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin, Camille Claudel, Sarah Bernhardt, and Honoré Daumier.
The museum also holds collections of architecture and decorative arts, and photography. The library, which is principally open to researchers, holds books and periodicals relating to artists and artistic movements for the period 1848-1914.
daily except Monday, from 9.30am to 6pm, Thursdays until 9.45pm.
Musée d’Orsay, entry through the forecourt,
1, rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris
Information and switchboard: www.musee-orsay.fr – +33 (0)1 40 49 48 14
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