Musée de l’Orangerie; a “peaceful haven” of Paris

By Ann Haley, B.F.A. Painting, SCAD Savannah

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I visited the Musée de l’Orangerie in the late afternoon of Friday, November 2, 2012. It was a wonderful, calming way to end the day after a somewhat mind-draining day at the Louvre. This was a smaller museum located just off of the River Seine in the Jardin des Tuileries that many painting students visited during the evening of our last full day in Paris. The Musée de l’Orangerie was one of my favorite museums that I visited on our trip (tied with the Pompidou!), and I think part of why I loved it so much was the timing at which that I went there. Being the last museum that I went to, it was a pleasant way to end my trip–some museums have so much artwork that it can be very overwhelming at times, but the Musée de l’Orangerie was simple, yet still had a lot of amazing work. My two favorite exhibits in the museum were Claude Monet’s and Chaïm Soutine’s.

The entire first floor, or floor zero, as the French call it, was designed for Monet specifically. From the lobby you enter the Vestibule, which is a completely white room that Monet designed to create a peaceful haven for Parisians after WWI. Its purpose was to be a “decompression space” between the city of Paris and his work. Monet’s paintings filled the two primary first floor galleries, which are large, oval-shaped rooms. I found it remarkable how the shape of the canvases followed the curvature of the walls. In the first room were his water lilies, and in the second room were his weeping willow trees. These paintings were so easy to get lost in, especially because there was no horizon. I thought that it looked like it was so much fun to paint! It inspired me to create something serene and large scale. Seeing Monet’s brush strokes up close was really inspiring for my work in Intermediate Painting. He was not one of my original references, but now I am looking more closely at his works. Professor Reed and I looked at these paintings together, and we found it interesting how the places where the canvases had been stitched together almost seemed deliberately obvious. We also noticed how the colors in the warm paintings reflected onto the cool paintings and vice versa. These were my two favorite rooms in the museum. In fact, if I could have had it my way, I would have taken all of the other people out, put a cozy bed in the center of both rooms, plus skylight windows and a rainstorm.

After relaxing in Monet’s exhibit, I went down to the negative one floor to see Chaïm Soutine’s work. He had a very colorful style with thick application of paint, and his paintings were done with so much personality. For example, I could get a good sense of what the people in his portraits were like; it’s like you could get to know them through the paintings.

Other artists exhibited in this museum were: Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Maurice Utrillo, Henri Rousseau, Amedo Modigliani, and Marie Laurencin. While I definitely recommend going to all of the great museums in Paris, I really think people need to make time to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie while in Paris. Paris is such a fast moving city with so much to take in, that it was nice to end the trip in this “peaceful haven” as Monet would say.

*Unfortunately, taking photographs was not permitted in the museum, but in the above slideshow are images of the actual Monet paintings in the museum.

Image credits: SCAD Image Database, http://did.scad.edu/students/

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