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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Masterpieces of the Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'Orsay

Masterpieces of the Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914 and is one of the largest art museums in Europe. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It is most famous for its large collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces.

Masterpieces 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 learnt from the study of Japanese art into this scene. Claude Monet study of Japanese artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige and Utagawa Hiroshige helped him realise that painting could most effectively evoke 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 early years as an artist. By studying the masters of earlier generations, Monet learnt 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 important 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 painting identified her as a prostitute. Also “Olympia” was a name associated with prostitutes in 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 or 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 colour to create this painting. The view is from the Saint-Michel embankment and in the centre 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 colours.
  • 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 colour 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 and a pair of faces below the level of the dance floor can be seen.

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“The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

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Photo Credit: By No machine-readable author provided. Ossiostborn~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

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