11 Jun2009

Musee d’Orsay, Paris

by Marketman


This is possibly my favorite museum in the whole world. An afternoon spent at the Musee d’Orsay is always a pleasure; and certainly on par with a brilliant food experience. With a collection of beautiful paintings, sculpture and other art from the second half of the 19th century and early decade or two of the 20th century, there are so many paintings here I would love to have hanging on my home walls. I can’t say the same for a lot of the stuff at the Louvre, or L’Accademia in Venice, National Museums in every major capital, etc. Back in university, I took several classes in Art History, and enjoyed the ones on Impressionist art the most. And with SO MANY paintings from that period at the Musee d’Orsay, a visit there is like flipping through textbooks, but instead of “plates” of photographs, you are bombarded with brilliant painting after painting after painting… Housed “within” the shell of a former train station built for an exposition in 1900, the museum shell is an incredible tribute to STEEL… just when you thought such a hard metal would be cold and unyielding, it is instead pliant, elegant and simply stunning. But the interiors are very modern, clean, soothing and just large enough to be manaeable for a few hours of wandering about. If you wish to read more about the history of the museum, click here.


Good grief, just imagine how enlightened these guys were to have a TRAIN STATION that looked like this! And the clocks that face outwards and inwards are just stunning as well. Yes, that’s me in the shadows of the clock up top.


The whole museum is bathed in natural sunlight from the glass roof above. And the curvature of the roof is stunning as well. One should take a minute or two to appreciate the shell of the museum before plunging into the orgy of art in the various rooms and levels…


The ground floor has several dozen wonderful sculptures, and you feel as though you are in an outdoor sculpture garden, except for the complete absence of trees or shrubery! This is the perfect place to catch your breath, study the map, and decide which parts of the museum you would like to visit. On a 2-3 hour visit, you can see 50-70% of the collection on display at a reasonable pace. The day we visited, it wasn’t too busy, so one didn’t feel rushed or claustrophobic.


For this post, I thought I would post some photos of food and related subjects, just to give you an idea of what the collection includes. But trust me when I say there are few places on earth where you will find a more incredible collection of pre-impressionist, impressionist and just post-impressionist art under one roof. First off a hunk of beef. A Manet I think, and I don’t recall seeing this painting before.


A still life by Manet with grapes, fresh almonds, etc. I didn’t realize until this trip just how many paintings Manet had with food as a subject. I like his paintings, often with a touch of black in them that seem to make them so distinct, in a way.


A still life by Henri Fantin-Latour, beautiful and colorful, but too “cheery” for me. Mind you, I would take it if someone gave it to me…heeheehee.


L’Asperge, again by Manet, a small painting of a single white Asparagus, one of several paintings of white asparagus he did at the time. I wonder if he was fascinated with the strange effect asparagus has on one’s urine. :)


Nature morte a la boulloire, by Paul Cezanne, another still life, also with a streak of black in it, can you tell which paintings I am drawn to?


I can’t believe I got this photo of an entire wall in a gallery without any other people around, it really must have been a slow day at the d’Orsay…


A huge and pretty canvas, Le Dejeuner by Claude Monet is something someone with plastic on their couches might aspire to having replicated at a Vietnamese art store for $500. I realize a lot of folks would love this painting, but I am not that big a fan of it…


Another large canvas, by Pierre Bonnard, entitled L’apres-midi bourgeoise in the same vein is also not floating my boat, if you know what I mean.


I was always a huge fan of Pierre Bonnard’s work, but they didn’t seem to have a good representation of his works on display at d’Orsay, with iconic pieces I had read about probably in other collections and museums. However, this painting, La Femme au chat, was rather visually arresting. Even if the cat hairs gave me virtual allergies… If you visit the museum, don’t forget to drop by the roof terrace where you can have a drink and snack and enjoy a FANTASTIC view of the Seine and the city of Paris beyond…




  1. home economist lee says:

    lumalabas ang pagka-emo mo. hehe.

    Jun 11, 2009 | 11:38 pm


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  3. Gina says:

    Did you visit the Picasso museum, MM? In the Marais.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 1:41 am

  4. eej says:

    Yes, Paris is a must see for art enthusiasts. It’s a place where art and culture is closely intertwined with day to day life.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 1:46 am

  5. Vanessa says:

    Gina, did you hear that the Picasso Museum was recently burgled? A priceless notebook of sketches, kept in an unlocked display case on the first floor was taken. There is an amazing galettes place right across the museum to which I’m quite positively addicted!

    Marketman, I share your adoration for Musée d’Orsay! And its crowds are far more tolerable than those at the Louvre, which often resembles an airport terminal than museum.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 3:01 am

  6. Apicio says:

    In visiting a large and highly evolved city as Paris, you need to focus on a singular theme and limiting yourself in this manner to truly narrow interest is the only way you can take in the depth of experience and knowledge that can never be obtained through a desultory visit. There are just too many attractions vying for your attention. For me a peek at the Musée Guimet, Musée Nissim de Camondo and then at a couple of perfume flagship stores such as Guerlain or Frederic Malle and then a few bookstores and I am done.

    Is the silhouette shot on top consciously mimicking the framing of the fourth picture or vice versa?

    Jun 12, 2009 | 3:44 am

  7. pinkytab says:

    I loved this museum so much that the next time I went with my husband it was on our must see list. Before we went to the Musee d’Orsay we had brunch at a nice restaurant and I insisted that we order the ham and cheese crepe. The cream sauce must have been so rich that it unsettled our stomachs. One thing I dont like about Paris museums and Europe as a whole is their bathroom facilities is not ample enough. I hope they mistook my husband as something else other than a Filipino because he cut infront of the CR line to avoid an accident. Needless to say our visit was cut short. I was able to make it back to the hotel but barely. Next time I go to M d’O I will make sure I go on an empty stomach.
    On another note have you been to Sainte-Chapelle? It is one of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen. A must see place!

    Jun 12, 2009 | 4:30 am

  8. Monica says:

    Hi, MarketMan. The family and I are going to Paris on the second week of July. I was torn whether to go to the Musee Louvre AND Musee d’Orsay. Of course, everyone has to go to the Louvre, so it was a no brainer. But my 10-year-old just finished a paper on Monet and Impressionism and I really wanted him to see the actually paintings in his research. I knew he would get a kick out of it. So you have definitely convinced me with this timely post. My question is, should I still go to the Louvre? Is it really worth it? The more I research on the internet, I find that more people recommend Musee d’Orsay.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 5:01 am

  9. hill roberts says:

    HI, MM. Next time you’re in Europe, you must also visit the Museo Nacional del Prado, Carmen Thyssen Bornemisza Collection, Museo Cerralbo as well as the Municipal Museum which has an extensive collection ofengravings, plans and photographs of madrid throughout the ages and great paintings. Paris may be the city of romance but Madrid has a very rich history too with fine architecture, food and museums.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 5:34 am

  10. Marketman says:

    hill, yes,so much indeed to see, not enough time to do it in… Monica, personally, I would stick the d’Orsay, if you can only do one museum, particularly with younger family members. At the Louvre, when our daughter was 7 or so, we just showed her 4-5 key areas and left after that. Again, if it’s up to me, 3 hours is the absolute max I can stay in a museum. Then I need a break. pinkytab, yes, bathroom facilities do get crowded. But imagine if you had the runs at the National Museum in Manila? Hopefully, you could find paper somewhere in the vicinity… Apicio, I agree, a bite of this and a bite of that… otherwise it’s overload. And how observant of you, the first and fourth photos were not intentionally linked. And I had a lot more clothes on in the first one! :) Gina & Vanessa, we didn’t get to the Picasso museum this time, but I have been to it on a previous trip.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 6:37 am

  11. kurzhaar says:

    Personally I think the Louvre is certainly worth a visit–it has a broader focus than the Musee d’Orsay (a somewhat specialised museum) and holds much more than mainly post mid-19th century French art. So it will give your kid a chance to see fine art from a wide period of time and styles.

    Also, the Louvre holds a lot of exhibits beyond “fine art”. I’d say that if it is your kid’s first opportunity to see things like a substantial antiquities collection, I would definitely add this to your must-see lists. Who knows, it might inspire goals of becoming an anthropologist or an architect!

    Other museums that might be of interest include the Musee Rodin (a personal favourite), the Musee de la Poupee, and the Musee du quai Branly.

    If you plan to focus intensively on museums for a few days, getting a museum pass might be worthwhile for the adults in the group. (Entry for kids is usually free.) Look for the official price and not the marked-up price through third parties. A friend recently tried out a Paris pass that included the museum pass plus transport on the metro plus some other tourist attractions…it saved him some money.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 8:10 am

  12. natie says:

    a funny thought, while contemplating on the asparagus art, MM..you couldn’t help it, could you? heehee

    Jun 12, 2009 | 8:47 am

  13. iris says:

    I’ve always wondered what that building was but we were too pressed for time when we went to Paris. I know where to go next time I visit. Thanks, MM.

    Happy Independence Day! :)

    Jun 12, 2009 | 10:41 am

  14. pnyorker says:

    Art indeed is food for the soul. And yet it all depends on the viewer. Edouard Manet’s works really touches the basic need of man. i’m surprise you don’t have a picture of any of his fish–i always connect him to that. I always capped my trips with a visit on the museums. It is always nice not to miss the big ones but the small and quaint ones i like best. Try the Marmottan next visit. Brilliant post! like it. Thanks.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 3:49 pm

  15. alicia says:

    I would have to say this is my favourite museum in the world too! Love that clock shot- its a requisite shot isn’t it?
    I share your fondness for Bonnard. There are those that say Pierre Bonnard is the greatest painter of the 20th century. Picasso was a genius , but that’s something quite different.

    To Monica- i realize time may be an issue but i would really recommend you go to both museums with your children. And i would add the Picasso museum as well- a nice thing to do while strolling around the Marais anyway and the Rodin if you can- i have found that having my children read about the museums and paintings makes them excited about the destination- the Louvre has a great children’s bookstore and you might want to pick up a few books when you first arrive, like- “My Little Picasso” by Marie Sellier or say, ” Monuments that tell stories of Paris” or even some interactive cd’s . Then on the remaining days see the rest of the monuments/museums. It will make their visit even more meaningful;-)

    Jun 12, 2009 | 3:54 pm

  16. Tok says:

    what a nice place…sana makabisita ka din sa local museum natin.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 5:08 pm

  17. k. ramos says:

    I’m guessing that the Teen took the first photo… am I right?

    Jun 12, 2009 | 9:09 pm

  18. NYCMama says:

    for Monica: for a great collection of Monet, must go to Musee Marmotan: http://www.marmottan.com/
    It’s a little out of the way, but so very very worth it. I believe it houses the largest collection of Monets in the world. I can’t say skip the Louvre, because I brought my twins there when they were 3 almost 4 years old, and they still remember it. What I did was I asked one kid to watch out for paintings of food, and the other to watch out for paintings/sculpture of angels. So it became a fun, memorable treasure hunt. What is priceless to me was their comment re the Mona Lisa. After the long walk, the long line, and finally getting close up to it, they said, “That’s it?” I have not forgotten that moment, (neither have they)! And another museum must for me is l’orangerie: http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/ Smaller, but packed with painting after painting… and it’s just so stunning.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 10:02 pm

  19. Mandy says:

    “A huge and pretty canvas, Le Dejeuner by Claude Monet is something someone with plastic on their couches might aspire to having replicated at a Vietnamese art store for $500.”

    You are too funny!! I like the Musee d’Orsay more than the Louvre too. But of course, the Louvre is a must visit place in Paris too. :)

    Jun 12, 2009 | 10:35 pm

  20. docgelo says:

    wow, i can only look at your photos in awe!
    i hope one day i can bring my family to paris to see that part of the globe. thanks for sharing.

    Jun 12, 2009 | 10:50 pm

  21. Marketfan says:

    ..and you didn’t mention the Van Goghs in Orsay, jaw dropping when you see them for real and not from the pages of an art book..

    Jun 12, 2009 | 11:00 pm

  22. jingle says:

    … and the joy of walking around the La Marais and discovering small museums housed in old mansions and the pleasant surprise to find a refreshing garden inside…

    Jun 13, 2009 | 8:47 am

  23. Marketman says:

    k. ramos, actually Mrs. MM took the first photo, and deserves credit. :) And to all, yes, if possible, visit as MANY museums as you can. I only favor the d’Orsay because it is a personal favorite, covering art I prefer or enjoy the most. Definitely make time to see the Louvre, the Picasso, Rodin, etc. The kid has been to all of them, I think, oops, except the Picasso, I think. but with kids, maybe the science museum would be even better than fine art at a young age.

    Jun 13, 2009 | 10:05 am

  24. sister says:

    Apicio, I’m glad you mentioned the Musee Nissim de Camondo, my favorite one for showing how one family lived and what they accumulated during their lifetime. It helped to be bankers to the Ottomans. It has the best kitchen by far- with a receiving area for food deliveries, that gigantic stove in the middle of the kitchen, staff dining room, dishwashing rooms, etc. all on the first floor. Kitchen designers take note. Also a fabulous collection of china beautifully displayed on the second floor.
    For those who find themselves in DC visit Hillside, the Merriweather Post estate, whose gardens include a pet cemetery.

    Jun 13, 2009 | 10:05 am

  25. Fabian Mangahas says:

    Musee d’Orsay is my favorite museum that I have not visited. Not a wise decision back then to keep to visiting it on our last day, and not having pre-purchased tickets, and thus seeing a kilometric line snaking outside the museum. We didn’t want to miss our train :(

    Really enjoying your Paris posts. Hope there are still a couple more before you move on to other things. :)

    Jun 13, 2009 | 12:15 pm

  26. wysgal says:

    The train station makes for an amazing space … loved the art too of course. =)

    Centre Pompidou is a similarly amazing space (with a great view of the city!) although I wasn’t as big a fan of their more experimental type art.

    Jun 13, 2009 | 5:54 pm

  27. Apicio says:

    A museum for every taste. Another fabulous favorite is Musée Carnavalet located in the Marais district and so within walking distance of Place de Vosge, the oldest Parisian plaza. This hotel particulier was Madame de Sévigné’s Paris residence throughout her life which seemed to have been devoted to writing letters (mostly to her daughter Madame de Grignan). Her collected correspondence comprises three thick volumes in Gallimard’s edition de la Pléiade.

    I cannot understand why I need to spend close to CAN$2000 for a three day trip to San Francisco from Toronto while Air Canada is advertising CAN$673 for a whole week in Paris, hotels and taxes included.

    Jun 13, 2009 | 6:29 pm

  28. corrine says:

    Really nice posts! I love going to museums…I can spend the whole day there!

    Jun 13, 2009 | 8:39 pm

  29. jtan says:

    did you take a bateaux ride on the seine? it’s lovely at dusk. you sail by the d’orsay, under the bridges as the homes turn on their lights. you get a peek into the affluent homes along the seine. brings a bottle of wine, bread and cheese.

    Jun 14, 2009 | 12:20 am

  30. Apicio says:

    Here is a link to a picture of the humongous stove that Sister referred to in her comment above. Market Man, notice among the gleaming copper pots, the exceedingly elitist lozenge shaped turbotiere that we spoke of a few years ago.


    Jun 14, 2009 | 3:54 am

  31. betty q. says:

    Sorry again, MM …off the topic!

    Angela: I wen to Chinatown only to find the tofu place is indeed closed. However, they relocated to EAST OENDER…1436 East Pender, Vancouver. ..just google for the other details: superiortofu.com. They are the ones that makes the best TAHO on site!…and if you are lucky to be there when they make it, you can get the TAHO still warm!

    Jun 14, 2009 | 7:17 am

  32. Cristina says:

    Musee d’Orsay is one of my favorite museums too, since I do appreciate Impressionistic Art.

    Thanks for sharing these photos Marketman :)

    Jun 14, 2009 | 10:25 pm


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