The Orangerie is one of my favourite museums in Paris. I’ve often heard it described as a jewel-like museum. It’s just the right size, not too crowded, is home to a collection of beautiful works, and regularly puts on fascinating temporary exhibitions. It’s one of those museums you can go to again and again and never get tired of.
The Orangerie was built in 1852 to house the orange trees of the Tuileries gardens that surround it, with a glass facade facing south across the Seine river. It was then put to various other uses, as a concert hall, an exam room or to house soldiers on leave from the trenches during WWI, and was not modified until the 1920’s when Monet donated his water lily paintings with very specific instructions for how he wanted them displayed. It has since been modified again, adding the Post-Impressionist Walter-Guillaume collection, and was fully restored in 2006, demolishing the upper level and moving the Walter-Guillaume collection into a newly developed lower level so that the Nympheas could once again be seen how Monet intended, their aspect changing with the changes in the natural daylight that floods in from outside.
Probably the most spectacular section of the museum are the rooms dedicated to eight giant paintings of Monet’s Nympheas – each is 2m by 6m. The paintings were donated by Monet in 1922 and are shown exactly as he wanted them to be, on curved walls in two simple oval shaped rooms full of natural, diffused light that allow the works to surround you on all sides. They have actually been glued to the walls, and stayed in the museum throughout WWII and all the renovation works.
However don’t just go for the water lilies. Don’t miss the Walter-Guillaume collection downstairs, featuring works by Cezanne, Renoir, Utrillo, Matisse, Picasso and Soutine, amongst others. This newest level is also full of natural light, and the Soutine collection is said to be the best in Paris.
The museum also puts on regularly changing temporary exhibitions which are included in the ticket price, the current one is dedicated to Guillaume Apollinaire.
Make sure you buy a ticket online before you go as lines can get long.
- Musée de l’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, 75001 Paris. metro: Concorde
Open daily except Tuesdays 9:00 – 18:00