Thursday, March 13, 2014

Musee D'Orsay: #1 tip for visitors to Paris

I have not exactly picked up the ball and run with it, or some other athletic metaphor. But January through mid-March has been another wild ride (why do I think my life will be quieter or run more smoothly or peacefully? It is a delusion I am consistently seduced by...)

But here is Paris share 1/50: The Musee D'Orsay.



Musee D'Orsay, from across Seine


Forget the Louvre. well, don't "forget" it, but let's get real: the Louvre is a wonderful repository of artifacts and global art--but if you want to "know" Paris go to the Musee D'Orsay. Spend a morning there, after which your entire Paris experience will be richer, deeper, more complex and interesting.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9:30*-6 (except Mondays); open Thursday nights to 9:45 pm.
Cafes: 3 inside; carts outside, and nearby cafes (tourist prices)

The museum is a renovated train station and it is one of the most difficult interiors to navigate. Pick up a map. To get to the 5th floor: go directly to the rear of the main floor and take the escalators at rear center all the way to the top. To get to the niveau median: go left (East) or right (West), up one set to steps and down the long hall of rooms which open into/through/around one another.

Interested in Monet? Manet? Degas? Van Gogh? Toulouse-Lautrec? Gaugin? Caillebotte? Renoir? Courbet? Corot? Any painter/sculptor/designer/photographer of the 19th century? You'll find them here, in juxtaposition with their peers. If you pay attention, this is as much about the evolution of Paris during the 19th century as it is about the evolution of art.


For Impressionist Rooms: walk down this central hall to rear, take escalators


When heading for the Impressionists, ignore everything else.

In specific order, here's what you must see:
  1. The Impressionist section (fifth floor, SE corner). This is the intense collection of paintings and sculptures by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and their associated pals between the 1860s and 1880s. Come early to avoid crowds, ignore the tourists filming (instead of looking at) the paintings, and find bliss.
  2. The pastels and drawings of Degas, Lautrec, and others--same floor. Smaller, intimate dark rooms to preserve the materials/media.
  3. Van Gogh, Lautrec and later post-Impressionists:W side, 1 staircase up from entry floor, Rms 71-2 (Niveau median).
  4. Individual (free/unticketed) exhibitions.
Of course, if you have a ticket to a special exhibition, these are usually very popular and crowded, so go there after #1 (Impressionists are ALWAYS the most crowded and thus annoying rooms.)

Impressionist Rooms, Musee D'Orsay


If you are interested in decorative arts or early/mid-nineteenth century art, go there last. I say this because these rooms are always empty and you will not be battling crowds. You can then enjoy these spaces at your leisure. Both are rich, rich, rich in materials: you will find yourself nearly hypnotized by the holdings.

Last---but far from least!--go to the bookstore. Even if you are uninterested in art history books and textbooks, this is one of the best museums shops in Paris. It is filled with great gifts for children (or wonderful stuff for your children of all ages, if they're with you), mothers & mothers-in-law, and everyone else. This bookstore is not as good as it used to be, and yet it is superb.

My final recommendation: buy your ticket (or tickets) ahead of time. If you do so, you will eliminate all standing in line: you will sail by all those standing outside as if you were Queen Elizabeth (or Wills and Kate). I suggest buying through FNAC, if only because you can open an account and buy all your museum/event tickets early here, print them before you leave the US, and enjoy waving royally at the wilting peeps in the "line."

*If you do not have a ticket, be in line by 9:15 am to get in nearly as soon as the museum opens (May-Sept); if you do have the advance pre-ticket... see "Wills/Kate" note above.

Directions: The museum is located on the Left (South) Bank of the Deine, directly across from the Louvre. It can most easily be reached by taking the #12Metro to Solferino, or the RER C to Musee D'Orsay, or walking across the Passarelle Solferino from the Quai des Tuileries. Here's a map. It is a longer, but lovely walk from the Place de la Concorde across the Pont de la Concorde and along the Seine.

Associated museums:
Musee Marmottan Monet, 16th arrondissment: Monet, Morisot, Renoir in small museum
Musee Victor Hugo, 4th arrondissment: Hugo's home with special exhibitions. Bonus: located in the Place des Vosges!
Musee de l'Orangerie: 1st arrondissement: special exhibitions of Impressionist painters
Musee Carnavalet, 3rd arrondissement: a museum of the culture of Paris, medieval to modern times. Bonus: location in the Marais district!

1 comment:

  1. Great suggestion--both the museum and the tips for avoiding the line (which I have suffered on more than once). I think those 6 day passes also enable one to avoid the line AND to try out smaller museums without a major commitment. I do have to say that the Victor Hugo Museum was boring to us.

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