You know for a guy (like me) who has a love of both art and photography you would think that this would be a fun post, but this is a post that is not so much about my photographs and words as it is about the work of some of the world’s best impressionist artists and this fantastic building that they are housed in. I only had the idea to do this post while I was actually looking at some of the shots I did for my last post about all the tulips in Pella, Iowa of the tulips. They actually reminded me of seeing all of the impressionists works that were at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. In particular, were the many works of Claude Monet that are kept in this one of a kind museum.
I was told that this wonderful building (that now is the Musee D’Orsay), was at one time similar to a very old "Parisian" version of New York City's Grand Central Station, but the story goes back much much further than that story ever could. Even though that part of the history of the museum does sort of go like that, it also goes way back before that time.
The Musee D’Orsay (or as I liked to call it); “The Orsay Impressionist Art Museum”. But really, it is called the “Musee D’Orsay” and not the cute little name I gave it. I do think that my nomenclature however, is a much more descriptive name frankly, than the one bestowed on it though.
The actual site of the Musee D’Orsay is filled with history. Way back in the 16th Century it was the gardens of Marguerite de Valois, queen to Henri IV. and it was divided up after her death, it was covered with a very upper class neighborhood. Meanwhile on the banks of the river Seine pieces of the famous property were becoming a stopping place for river traffic.
This demand made is necessary to form a quay, and in 1615 the Quai d'Orsay was stated under the auspices of Napoleon the first. At the end of the 18th century the Hôtel de Salm (today the Musée de la Légion d'honneur) was built, between 1782 and 1788. On the exact spot of the Museum there was a cavalry barracks and the Palais d'Orsay. During the Paris Commune in 1871, the entire neighborhood was burnt to the ground. For thirty years the ruins of the Palais d'Orsay was a “reminder of the horrors of France’s civil war”.
In 1900 the French government gave the land to the Oleans Railway Company who planned to build a more central terminal station on the site of the ruined Palais d'Orsay. The project was considered a challenging one because of the vicinity of the Louvre and the Palais de la Légion d'honneur. It would be a horror if the new station didn’t fit in with its neighbors. It didn’t take long before it would be one of the most modern transport facilities in Paris.
After 1939 the station began to feel its age and slowly slipped into obsolescence. While it continued to function it was all downhill; its hotel closed its doors in 1973 despite its historic position, and many changes were soon to follow.
On October 20th 1977 the Direction des Musées de France made the decision to make the station into a museum. It would celebrate the life and times of the first half of the 19th century. The President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, inaugurated the new museum on December 1st, 1986, and it opened to the public on December 9th. There were many pictures and post cards around the museum that showed the different stages of this restoration which was quite spectacular in both its scope and efforts.
While I have a couple of shots of the buildings of the Musee D’Orsay here, the real treasures (and for that matter) the true art of this post has more to do with the masters of the impressionist era, than it does with anything that I might write or even photograph here.
Let me tell you that even the Louvre (in all of its glory, pomp and circumstance) could not hold a candle (in my opinion) to what I found in the Musee D’Orsay. It holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography, and is probably best known for its extensive collection of the impressionist masterpieces that I so love by popular painters such as Monet and Renoir. I was just blown away by the self portraits on Vincent Van Gogh that were in the D’Orsay. I always thought that there was just one of these gems, but I saw several different ones around the museum.
The Musee D’Orsay is a place I will never forget, and truly one of my favorite places to visit in Paris. If I could do only one museum in Paris, it would be this one. I truly loved it!“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”
~ Vincent Van Gogh