Musée d’Orsay

Everyone loves the Musée d’Orsay. It’s somehow not quite as crowded as the Louvre, but it can still get packed. Buy your tickets ahead of time – the line stretches into the sunshine and you’re likely to get burnt waiting.

I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite, but less popular works that are in the Orsay – you know about the Monets and the Reniors and the Van Goghs. And there are some here, too. The stories about the art, or rather the story the art tells, are why I write these.

This is a Toulouse-Lautrec, and it’s just a few lines and a little bit of color. I love the blue around her face, and the spareness that still shows so much atmosphere.

I am always and forever here for a painting of a woman who is done with your bullshit.

This is, I think, a Berthe Morisot painting. There was an exhibit of her work while we were there,nad there was something arresting about her. She wants to get up and dance around the room, but she has to sit here for this painting (maybe because of the man reading behind her?). I like her.

My version of the clock. It’s impossible to get an unblocked version.

I don’t really understand how or why Monet decided to paint a field full of turkeys, but I like the red of their necks combined with the green of the grass.

Gah, the reflections in this photo are terrible. But Bastille Day is festive, no? (I have a vague memory of noticing this painting for the first time when it was at the High Museum in Atlanta, I think?)

Fine, this is the painting from Amèlie, I think. It’s famous and I don’t have a good story about it. Happy people are happy.

This is the painting that, when I was grieving my mom most acutely, finally made me realize I needed therapy. If you ask me, I’ll tell you how.

It’s like the polar bear that I’ve been in love with for years, but an owl instead. It’s the same sculptor.

A great thing about the Orsay is that it’s got all of this art nouveau decor and I love it. It’s so out there and full of nature and it swoops so well. It’s one of my favorite parts of the museum, and almost no one goes there, so it’s easy to get lost looking at all of the crazy decor.

In short: the Orsay is lovely and there’s a lot that isn’t normally featured that’s worth taking the time to look at. If you’re in Paris, you should go.

Le Musée de l’Orangerie

The Musée de l’Orangerie is a small little museum in the corner of the Jardin des Tuileries that you would miss if you didn’t know it was there. It serves two different purposes. First, to house Monet’s Water Lilies paintings. Second, to house the art collections of Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume.

Monet’s Water Lilies are ginormous paintings that were some of Monet’s last. They’re all of his gardens in Giverny; he donated them to the French government when they were finished because of WWI – he wanted to honor peace. When we went to the Monet exhibit last spring, I wrote that I didn’t like them that much – lots of blobs of color. But here’s the thing: I enjoyed them way more for having been to that exhibit. I learned a lot more about Monet’s later life, his frustrations, his gardens, and how he worked.

So, lesson learned: the more you know about a subject, the more you’ll like it. Or at least be able to react to it in a smart way.

The rest of the collection is of late impressionism and early cubist paintings. They work together in a personal-taste kind of way, not because they’re all of the same artist or the same style of painting. It’s one of the reasons I like the Orangerie better than some of the other museums in Paris. It’s not overwhelmingly big and the collection is more eclectic.

Marie Laurencin is a painter that I’ve not seen displayed elsewhere. I enjoy her works, mostly of women and dogs. Stuff You Missed in History Class recently featured her on their podcast, and I was glad to learn more about her and her style of painting.

This painting is by Chaïm Soutine, and I love the Loony-toons quality of it. This looks like it should be in a cartoon of a town that’s being blown around by a storm.

So, like I said: the paintings aren’t the most famous and it features some less-well-known artists, and I quite enjoy it. The Musée de l’Orangerie is a good one, and I would recommend setting a couple of hours aside to visit it.

Late Monet: playing with light

There’s a temporary Monet exhibit at the Deyoung museum through Memorial Day weekend. It focuses on his later years, which I associate with the Water Lilies paintings that are kept in the l’Orangerie museum in Paris. They are not my favorite, honestly. They are impressive in size, but are otherwise just shades of pastel colors that I don’t find especially interesting.

What I’m saying: I went to the Late Monet exhibit because I wanted to see the art, but I wasn’t going to get my hopes up too much.

But I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. Why? Well….

I don’t think of Monet and Van Gogh as being painters who were particularly similar. But this painting above (and there were others in the exhibit)? May have changed my mind about that. The brushstrokes are similar, and the colors are brighter and more vivid than I remembered. There is a life to these paintings that I wasn’t expecting.

Monet, as always, kept up his habit of painting the same thing over and over again in different seasons and different lights. I always like seeing these paintings next to each other. You know that the one on the right was painted in the fall, whereas the one on the left might have been an early grey spring day.

And this painting of roses? I just liked this one. I like its unfinished edges, how light it is, and how it makes me think of the first really spring-y day of the year.

It’s worth your time if you can get to the Deyoung in the next couple of weeks.