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Musée d’Orsay – A Virtual Tour

Musée dOrsay

Musée d’Orsay – A Virtual Tour

Musée d’Orsay is housed in a magnificent train station building, which is a historic site constructed for the 1900 World Fair.

The Orsay is an internationally renowned art museum with a rich collection of Impressionist art and specializes in displaying artistic creations from 1848 to 1914.

During your visit to the Musée d’Orsay, you will see and experience masterpieces from 19th & 20th-century European art collections, all housed in a former monumental railway station built in 1898 – 1900.

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A Virtual Tour of the Musée d’Orsay

Highlights Tour of the Musée d’Orsay

“The Starry Night Over the Rhône” by Vincent van Gogh

“Starry Night Over the Rhône” is one of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings. The painting of Arles at night time was painted from the quay on the east side of the Rhône River.

This spot was only a two-minute walk from the Yellow House, which Van Gogh was renting at the time.

“A Cart on the Snowy Road at Honfleur” by Claude Monet

“A Cart on the Snowy Road at Honfleur” by Claude Monet depicts a cart on the snowy road at Honfleur. It is an example of how Monet was influenced by Japanese prints and how he integrated what he had learned from the study of Japanese art into this scene.

Claude Monet’s study of Japanese artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige and Utagawa Hiroshige helped him realize that painting could most effectively evoke the atmosphere if it relied on the viewer’s ability to interpret abbreviated signs from their relationships to the whole picture.

“The Basin at Argenteuil” by Claude Monet

“The Basin at Argenteuil” by Claude Monet was painted during the period when he lived in Argenteuil, from December 1871 until 1878.

Monet painted outdoors, and he would set up his easel out in the countryside or his garden. He would then carefully reworked the details of his canvases in his studio.

“Farmyard in Normandy” by Claude Monet

“Farmyard in Normandy” by Claude Monet is one of his very early paintings. Monet produced a surprisingly small number of pictures during his first years as an artist.

By studying the masters of earlier generations, Monet learned to start with a quick sketch and then complete the painting with paint patches and dabs to create a complete piece that captured the scene.

This painting was made when he was twenty-three at the start of his career.

“Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

“Dance at le Moulin de la Galette” is also known as “Bal du Moulin de la Galette” and is one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s most famous works.

The Moulin de la Galette was an outdoor dancehall and café, frequented by many of Renoir’s friends. Renoir was a regular, and he enjoyed the atmosphere.

The Moulin de la Galette was one of the several windmills located in Montmartre, a district of Paris.

“Olympia” by Édouard Manet

“Olympia” by Édouard Manet shows a nude woman lying on a bed being brought flowers by a servant. Olympia’s confrontational gaze caused astonishment when the painting was first exhibited because some of the details in the picture identified her as a prostitute.

Also, “Olympia” was a name associated with prostitutes in the 1860’s Paris. Most paintings during this period of art that were this large size depicted historical or mythological events, so the significant proportions of this picture is another factor that caused surprise.

“Whistler’s Mother” by James McNeill Whistler 

“Whistler’s Mother” by James McNeill Whistler depicts the painter’s mother, Anna McNeill Whistler. Its title is “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1” but is best known by its colloquial name “Whistler’s Mother.”

It is one of the most famous works by an American artist. The painting has been featured in posters and stamps. It has been mentioned in many works of fiction and within pop culture.

“The Quai Saint-Michel and Notre-Dame” by Maximilien Luce

“The Quai Saint-Michel and Notre-Dame” by Maximilien Luce was created using the technique of separate dabs of color to create this painting.

The view is from the Saint-Michel embankment, and in the center of the picture, the cathedral rises, radiant in oranges, pinks and reds tones, and with bluish shadows made up of beautiful, juxtaposed brush strokes.

The embankment and the bridge, which are under a shadow, as the sun sets and are painted using broader brushstrokes, with blue tones and purplish pink colors.

The Balcony by Édouard Manet

The Balcony by Édouard Manet depicts four figures on a balcony, one sitting, and the others standing. The painting was inspired by “Majas on the Balcony” by Francisco Goya.

The three people in the foreground were all friends of Manet, and yet seem to be disconnected from each other. The seated figure looks like a romantic and inaccessible heroine.

The two standing characters seem to display indifference. The boy in the background is not explicitly shown. For this painting, Manet adopted a restrained color palette, dominated by white, green, and black, with an accent of blue and red.

Country Dance by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

“Country Dance” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir shows a dancing couple under a chestnut tree. Both figures are painted life-size and occupy almost the entire painting.

The woman who holds a fan in her right hand is shown with a smiling face looking towards the viewer. The scene is bathed in bright and cheerful light. The background includes a table on the right and a hat on the ground.

There are also a pair of faces below the level of the dance floor can be seen.

The Cock Fight by Jean-Léon Gérôme

The Cock Fight by Jean-Léon Gérôme, also known as “Young Greeks Attending a Cock Fight,” portrays two near-naked adolescents at the foot of a fountain watching the fight between the two roosters.

Their youth contrasts with the weathered profile of the Sphinx and the fountain overall. This painting also represents the artist’s first great successes at the age of twenty-three.

“London, Houses of Parliament. The Sun Shining through the Fog” by Claude Monet

“The Houses of Parliament” by Claude Monet is one in a series of paintings of the Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament, created during the early 1900s while Monet stayed in London.

All of the series’ pictures share the same viewpoint from Monet’s terrace at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames and the approximate similar canvas size. They depict different times of the day and weather conditions. 

This painting’s viewpoint was close to that of J. M. W. Turner’s paintings of the fire that had destroyed much of the old Parliament complex in 1834. The works of the Thames by James McNeill Whistler also inspired Monet.

“La Gare Saint-Lazare” by Claude Monet

“La Gare Saint-Lazare” by Claude Monet is one of four surviving Monet paintings representing the interior of this train station.

Monet depicted the Gare St-Lazare as an interior landscape, with smoke from the engines creating the same effect as clouds in the sky.

After several years of painting in the countryside in Argenteuil, he turned to urban landscapes in Paris.

Monet was diversifying his portfolio and competing with other painters of modern life.

In this painting, Monet successfully captured the effects of light, movement, and clouds of steam in a modern urban setting.

“The Seine and Notre-Dame in Paris” by Johan Jongkind

“The Seine and Notre-Dame in Paris” by Johan Jongkind depicts the Seine and Notre-Dame on the horizon.

The majority of the canvas is reserved for the sky, reflecting Jongkind’s Dutch background, where he trained in the tradition of the seventeenth-century Dutch landscapists.

After Jongkind moved to France, he was influenced by nineteenth-century French landscape artists, particularly Corot, whose luminous atmospheres Jongkind greatly admired. 

In the 1860s, Jongkind met the young Claude Monet in Normandy and who was fascinated by Jongkind’s ability to catch fleeting variations in the weather in his watercolors. Monet later said of Jongkind: “He was the one who really trained my eye…”

“Blue Water Lilies” by Claude Monet

“Blue Water Lilies” by Claude Monet depicts his water-lily pond, from his garden in Giverny.

Monet grew water lilies in his water garden, and from the 1910s until he died in 1926, the garden and its pond became the artist’s main inspiration.

Monet claimed: “Apart from painting and gardening, I am good for nothing. My greatest masterpiece is my garden.”

“The Circus” by Georges Seurat

“The Circus” by Georges Seurat depicts a female circus performer standing on a white horse plus various other acts at a Paris circus of the late 1890s.

At that time, circuses and entertainment spectacles had become a favored subject for artists portraying modern life.

Seurat’s painting is divided into two parts, with the circus artists occupying the lower right, characterized by curves and spirals creating a sense of movement, and the audience filling the upper left, confined to rows of benches.

Dancers by Pierre Bonnard

Dancers by Pierre Bonnard depicts a high-angle view on a ballet with a dream-like quality. The dancers fill the stage in lines, with each group executing a different dance step.

The focus, the colors, and the cloud-like quality of the ballerina’s tulle give the impression that the figures are floating above the stage. 

Rather than observe and reproduce the world around him, Bonnard sought to instill each picture with “a beauty outside nature.”

Bonnard also collaborated with the Russian and Swedish Ballet to design décors as well as a poster. Thus Bonnard may have had the opportunity to observe a ballet from a bird’s eye view.

“The Ball” by James Tissot

“The Ball” by James Tissot depicts a young woman wearing a lavish yellow dress, arriving at a society event. The femininity of the woman is emphasized through the interplay of curves.

Her spread out fan is in the center of the painting and echoes the curve of her shoulders. Her long train is decorated with interlaced ribbons and lace revealed by the armchair with Japanese influenced motifs of fish in the water.

“Rosebushes under the Trees” by Gustav Klimt

“Rosebushes under the Trees” by Gustav Klimt was created during the artist’s summer holidays of 1904 and 1905 when he stayed in Litzlberg.

The canvas is covered with dabs of color and small brush strokes in the style of a mosaic. The tree foliage, above a narrow band of grass meadow, forms the main part of the composition.

The title of the painting derives from the rose bushes in the foreground under the trees.

The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet

The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet depicts three peasant women gleaning a field of stray stalks of wheat after the harvest.

The painting is famous for featuring the lowest ranks of rural society sympathetically. However, it immediately drew negative criticism from the middle and upper classes. 

Paris had recently come through the French Revolution of 1848, and the privileged classes saw this painting as glorifying the lower-class worker.

To them, it was a reminder that French society was built upon the labor of the working masses. The masses of workers greatly outnumbered the members of the upper class.

This disparity in numbers meant that if the lower class were to revolt, the higher class would be overturned.

“Summer Night” by Winslow Homer

“Summer Night” by Winslow Homer depicts a nocturnal scene by the sea with a sense of poetry and mystery.

The light and shade effects blur shapes, while two women dance on the shore.

Summer Night expresses this synthesis of Homers Paris experience and the early evolution of his signature style midway between Realism and Symbolism.

“And the Gold of their Bodies” by Paul Gauguin

“And the Gold of their Bodies” by Paul Gauguin was produced during the artist’s final years after he settled on the Marquesas Islands, in the village of Atuona.

Gauguin built a house he called his “House of Pleasure,” in search of a paradise where he could create pure, “primitive” art. 

Gauguin wrote in 1885: “There is no such thing as exaggeration in art, and I even believe that there is salvation only in extremes.”

“The Snake Charmer” by Henri Rousseau

“The Snake Charmer” by Henri Rousseau depicts a woman with glowing eyes playing the flute in the moonlight by the edge of a dark jungle with a snake extending toward her from a nearby tree.

The Musée d’Orsay described the painting as: “a black Eve in a disquieting Garden of Eden.”

“Two Sisters” by James Tissot

Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836 – 1902), anglicized as James Tissot, was a French painter and illustrator. He was a successful painter in Paris before moving to London in 1871.

He became famous as a genre painter of fashionably dressed women. Tissot left Paris after the Franco-Prussian War and resided in London from 1871.

He knew James McNeill Whistler and Edgar Degas, but turned away from Impressionism and focused mainly on portraits and genre paintings of the Victorian upper classes in a more polished academic style.

These pictures are typical of Tissot’s work, depicting his subjects with almost photographic realism. He composed ambiguous narratives that hinted at risqué behavior among the wealthy classes and the boundaries of propriety.

“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh

“Bedroom in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh describes three similar paintings by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter created between 1888 – 1889.

Van Gogh’s title for this composition was simply “The Bedroom.” There are three versions, easily distinguishable from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.

The bedroom was not rectangular but trapezoid, so no wall was at a right angle to any other wall. This reality may have contributed to its energy and instability, which is heightened by the prominent receding perspective.

“The Church at Auvers” by Vincent van Gogh

“The Church at Auvers” by Vincent van Gogh depicts the church in Auvers-Sur-Oise, a village in the outskirts of Paris. It was built in the 13th century in the early Gothic style and is flanked by two Romanesque chapels.

Van Gogh’s depiction of the church makes it seem as if it is on the verge of dislocating itself from the ground. The two paths seem to be clasping the church to the ground.

The painting does not so much offer a faithful image of reality but a form of “expression” of the church.

The foreground is brightly lit by the sun, but the church itself sits in its own shadow. The motif of diverging paths also appears in his painting “Wheat Field with Crows.”

“The Bed” (Le lit) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“The Bed” (Le lit) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec depicts two women lying in bed gazing at one another with intimacy.

The white sheets of the bed contrast with the red bedspread, headboard, and wall behind. The women face each other, their bodies concealed beneath voluminous bedclothes.

The painting is suffused by a warm glow, perhaps the rosy light of the morning or the gas lamp.

Toulouse-Lautrec frequented brothels in Paris, and he admired the unguardedness of the women.

Musée d’Orsay

  • Name:             Musée d’Orsay
  • City:                 Paris
  • Country:          France
  • Established:     1986
  • Type:                Art & Design/Textile Museum also a Historic Building
  • Address:                              1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France

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“A day without wine is like a day without sunshine.”
– French Proverb


Photo Credit: By Joe deSousa (The Musée d’Orsay at sunset Uploaded by Paris 17) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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