Impressions from the Musée D’Orsay

The Musée D’Orsay is proof that good things can happen to an old railway station. Photo by Christine

The Experienced Travelers promised to visit more museums and fewer cafés in an effort to elevate the intellectual tenor of our Paris visits.  We kept our word, and spent time at the exquisite Musée D’Orsay.

The shopping commenced before we crossed the threshold. Imagine what will happen when Christine and Nurse find the gift shop (gift shops are the shoppers reward for an erudite afternoon at the museum) Photo by Barbara.

Opened in 1986, the “M’O” houses art created between 1848 and 1914.  If we paid attention in our high school art appreciation class, we know this means the museum holds an immensely popular Impressionist collection.   Popular is an understatement.   The entry queue is often long, and we have two hints; buy your ticket online ahead of time, and consider visiting on Thursday evenings when the M’O is open till 9pm and everyone else is queued up waiting for a table at the Violon d’Ingres.

Nurse’s hotwheels careened us past the waiting crowds and through Security.

Here’s good news for people with limited mobility. You can cut the line!   Nurse was using “hotwheels” because of  her bad knee, and the very determined Security forces ushered us past the waiting throng.  Better yet, we were able to borrow a wheelchair –  after the typical miasma of French bureaucracy and paperwork.   This convenience got complicated because the M’O is riddled with stairs.  So we toured the back hallways and secret doorways, and maneuvered Nurse into elevators the size of linen closets.

The Impressionist painters were mocked and derided by the critics. After years of rejection by the prestigious Salon de Paris they brought their work to the public at the rival Salon des Refusés, where they were mocked and derided by the public.

But it was worth it.  Given the ferocity of  the crowds in the galleries,  you would think they were showing van Gogh’s ear instead of a self-portrait.  The Renoirs, Manets, Monets,  Gauguins and Toulouse-Lautrecs were stunning.  So stunning that I wanted to remember them forever by taking “no flash” photos.

I could almost taste the heavy brushstrokes on this Monet still life.

Suddenly, like the charge of Napoleon’s troops, the uniformed security contingent rose as one, to smote me and my camera.  The management of the M’O prefer that I remember the Impressionists forever by purchasing lovely postcards and souvenir drinks coasters in their gift shop.  Thankfully I had Nurse riding shotgun in the wheelchair which parted the crowd for a timely retreat to the linen-closet elevator.

An illegally-got Degas. Barbara and Chris are deeply sorry for this photo and apologize to the management of the M’O for their transgression.

We were four intellectually curious women experiencing some of the greatest art on earth.  So its embarrassing that we were overheard saying “oh, those colors would work for the bathroom” and “how would those Cathedral at Rouens go along the stairs?”.    This happens every time we visit a museum.  Maybe that’s why we gravitate to cafés.  It’s time to get rid of HGTV and Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Will it go over the fireplace?

So wheeling through the secret passages and “no entry” doorways we went, emerging each time into a room of extraordinary artwork, but never the room we were trying to find.  But no matter.  We came away with strong impressions from Mary Cassatts tender images of mother and child, the bleak hopelessness of Degas’ Absinthe drinker and appreciating that Berthe Morisot held her own with the boys at a time when it just wasn’t done.

Another Monet. Barbara and Christine promise to make a YouTube video of their apology to the M’O authorities.

If the ubiquitous Impressionism calendars make you weary of these French masters, a visit to the M’O will remind you that their use of light, their style and their appreciation for nature and simplicity was revolutionary and wonderful.

Outside the M’O, you can buy your own original art, then let these strapping young men pedal you home. We considered towing Nurse’s hot wheels behind us, but thought better of it

The Impressionists broke the rules of academic painting by depicting day-to-day life, painting outside in nature and painting outside the lines, if you will.  So why can’t the ETs be rule-breakers and take no-flash photos or discuss home decor when they should be debating brushstrokes and chiaroscuro?  We held our own Salon des Refusés later that afternoon at the Café Central and it was a huge success.

Nurse will not “refuse” a martini no matter what the social and artistic convention might be!

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4 Responses to “Impressions from the Musée D’Orsay”

  1. Terry Says:

    Another tip related to the Thursday evening late open hours: after 6PM it is half price. But don’t approach the desk at 5:59 — all you’ll get until exactly six is a wag of the finger…… There were really no lines, just a few of us lingering at the back of the roped area. Also, the view from the deck on the top level is impressive.

    • Julie Says:

      Terese! Excellent “on the ground” advice. You didn’t catch a fleeting glance of a party pushing a wheelchair through and unmarked door…?

  2. agzack Says:

    Thanks for making me smile so many times. We are headed to Switzerland in October and now I want to make a stop in Paris…. You certainly do a great job of sharing your love of the French, Paris and all it has to offer ET’s!

    • Julie Says:

      Allison Switzerland will be wonderful. Lots of fondu and wine. You’ll have to send pics for the Readership! Get a consult from our mutual friend Jo L who is very knowledgable. A stop in Paris would be perfect for shopping..!

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