The beautiful Musee d’Orsay, once a Belle Epoque train station, now houses a staggering collection of Impressionist art, as well as other items created between 1848 and 1914. Don’t miss the views of Sacré-Coeur from the balcony—this is the Paris that inspired the Impressionists.
I am so excited about today. We have planned a day at the Musee d’Orsay, the museum that holds one of the biggest collections of impressionist and post impressionist pieces. We start our morning early walking along the Seine, past all the pretty bridges until we come to Pont Royal where we cross to the left bank to find the white arches of the Musee d’Orsay and find our place outside the doors along with a small number of other early birds. When the doors open we move through into the inner majestic space of the musee.
Oh wow what a space. The decorative glass ceiling arches upward, high above a wide central hall.Once a railway station the building is breathtaking, its vastness contrasting with incredible decorative architectural detail. Before we get to consider the artworks within, it is clear that the building itself is a work of art.
The central hall houses a magnificent collection of sculptures. As we move through the central hall I am moved time and time again. I cannot possibly try to explain every piece that touched my heart, it is such a deeply emotional day.
One piece that is particularly beautiful is a statue by Auguste Clésinger, Femme piquée par un serpent, Woman Bitten by a Snake.There is a duality in this story, she is supposedly racked with pain but for some reason the pose Clésinger has sculpted her in is rather sensual and rather than pain, she seems racked with ecstasy perhaps from a serpent of another kind.
At the back of the hall is an enormous plaster relief, the Gates of Hell, Rodin. This work was born from the initial intent to create the Musee d’Orsay from the old train station. In 1888 Rodin was commissioned to create monumental doors for the entry to the planned musee. Rodin’s fascination with Dante’s Divine Comedy influenced this incredible piece and fueled his creativity until he died. I can’t believe he was still working on this piece when he died in 1917. The real kicker was that the museum was very delayed and Rodin had a reputation for never getting things finished so the doors never happened. Yet here I am 124 years after the birth of the idea, standing awestruck before the plaster cast on the site it was meant for.
I am speechless as I stand before this work. I think I need a whole day just to see everything in it. It is at once magnificent and terrifying. Within it I can see so many of his other sculptures. I never realised that so many of his works were actually details from this monumental creation. The thinker sits at the top pondering the meaning of life while around him the chaos ensues.
There is another detail work “Ugolino and his children” that is right near by. It is truly terrifying. It tells the story of Ugolino who in Dante’s Divine Comedy has been sentenced to die by starvation with his sons. The work shows Ugolino crouched over the bodies of his dead children his tortured face twisted by the loss of the last threads of his humanity as he prepares to consume the boy’s flesh. It is so disturbing, but I so admire the magical hands of Rodin who somehow conjured such complexity of emotion in every line he carved. Amazing.
I feel like every emotion has been evoked and I haven’t seen a painting yet. This is definitely my favorite museum in paris. And so we move on, away from the sculptures and the temptation to reach out and embrace them, run my hands over them feeling every bump and furrow, as undoubtedly the artist will have done.
We continue through an intoxicating journey. Soft pretty Manet works, misty and moody Monet, rich creamy Renoir, colourful dynamic Van Gogh, the unexpected frankness of Gustave Coubets origin of the world. So many works I can’t possibly describe them all.
Throughout the Musee students are perched, sketchbooks on laps. I so wish I had paper and pencil in my bag – I close my eyes and imagine spending hours here letting these magic works inspire me. Wicked thoughts, like wouldn’t it be amazing if I could hide somewhere and stay here all night – just me, drawing and painting.
This day has been so wonderful. As we emerge from the last salon, I am feeling so buoyant. I still feel like I am not ready to leave, to walk away from this incredible place. I’m not usually one to be attracted to the “gift shop” but here I feel so moved, that I’m not sure I could leave without taking a little slice of it with me. I find a beautiful book – paintings of the Musee d’Orsay, that we agree has to come home with us.
The walk back to our apartment feels like I am walking on air. All daydreamy and fanciful, the creative energy of all the amazing artists I have just experienced seems to be pouring into me filling me up. Today has somehow taken little disparate pieces of me and pulled them together. There is a knowing, I know that my future is going to be one of creativity. I definitely know that I will come back to Musee d’Orsay one day to draw and paint here.