Musée d'Orsay

Coordinates: 48°51′36″N 2°19′37″E / 48.860°N 2.327°E / 48.860; 2.327

The Musée d'Orsay (French pronunciation: ) is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It is probably best known for its extensive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces (the largest in the world) by such painters such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum's opening in 1986.


The museum building was originally a railway station, Gare d'Orsay, constructed for the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans and finished in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle to the design of three architects: Lucien Magne, Émile Bénard and Victor Laloux. It was the terminus for the railways of southwestern France until 1939.

By 1939 the station's short platforms had become unsuitable for the longer trains that had come to be used for mainline services. After 1939 it was used for suburban services and part of it became a mailing centre during World War II. It was then used as a set for several films, such as Kafka's The Trial adapted by Orson Welles, and as a haven for the Renaud-Barrault Theatre Company and for auctioneers, while the Hôtel Drouot was being rebuilt. The station's hotel closed on 1 January 1973.

Museum conversion

In 1977 the French Government decided to convert the station to a museum. ACT Architecture (Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc and Jean-Paul Philippon) were the designers and the construction work was carried by Bouygues. The Italian architect Gae Aulenti oversaw the design of the conversion from 1980 to 1986.

The work involved creating 20,000 sq. m. of new floorspace on four floors. The new museum was opened by President François Mitterrand on 1 December 1986.

The square of the museum displays six bronze allegorical sculptural groups in a row, originally produced for the Exposition Universelle (1878):

  • South America by Aimé Millet
  • Asia by Alexandre Falguière
  • Oceania by Mathurin Moreau
  • Europe by Alexandre Schoenewerk
  • North America by Ernest-Eugène Hiolle
  • Africa by Eugène Delaplanche
Paintings: major painters and works represented
  • Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres — 4 paintings (the main collection of his paintings is in the Louvre)
  • Eugène Delacroix — 5 paintings (the main collection of his paintings is in the Louvre)
  • Théodore Chassériau — 5 paintings (the main collection of his paintings is in the Louvre)
  • Gustave Courbet — 48 paintings including The Artist's Studio, A Burial at Ornans, Young Man Sitting, L'Origine du monde
  • Jean-François Millet — 27 paintings including Spring, The Gleaners
  • Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot — 32 paintings (the main collection of his paintings is in the Louvre though) including A Morning. The Dance of the Nymphs
  • Johan Barthold Jongkind — 9 paintings
  • Alexandre Cabanel — The Birth of Venus, The Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta
  • Jean-Léon Gérôme — Portrait of the baroness Nathaniel de Rothschild, Reception of Condé in Versailles, La Comtesse de Keller
  • Pierre Puvis de Chavannes — Young Girls by the Seaside, The Young Mother also known as Charity, View on the Château de Versailles and the Orangerie
  • Gustave Moreau — 8 paintings
  • Honoré Daumier — 8 paintings
  • Eugène Boudin — 33 paintings including Trouville Beach
  • Camille Pissarro — 46 paintings including White Frost
  • Édouard Manet — 34 paintings including Olympia, The Balcony, Berthe Morisot With a Bouquet of Violets, The Luncheon on the Grass
  • Berthe Morisot — 9 paintings
  • Edgar Degas — 43 paintings including The Parade, also known as Race Horses in front of the Tribunes, The Bellelli Family, The Tub, Portrait of Edouard Manet, Portraits, At the Stock Exchange, L’Absinthe
  • Paul Cézanne — 56 paintings including Apples and Oranges
  • Claude Monet — 86 paintings (the main collection of his paintings is in the Musée Marmottan Monet though) including The Saint-Lazare Station, The Rue Montorgueil in Paris. Celebration of June 30, 1878, Wind Effect, Series of The Poplars, Rouen Cathedral. Harmony in Blue, Blue Water Lilies
  • Alfred Sisley — 46 paintings including Inondation at Port-Marly
  • Armand Guillaumin — 44 paintings
  • Frédéric Bazille — 6 paintings
  • Mary Cassatt — 1 painting
  • Odilon Redon — 106 paintings including Caliban
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir — 81 paintings including Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre
  • Ferdinand Hodler — Der Holzfäller (The Woodcutter)
  • Gustave Caillebotte — 7 paintings including The Floor Planers
  • Édouard Detaille — The Dream
  • Vincent van Gogh — 24 paintings including Self Portrait, portrait of his friend Eugene Boch, The Siesta, The Church at Auvers, View from the Chevet, The Italian Woman, Starry Night Over the Rhone, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, Bedroom in Arles
  • Paul Gauguin — 24 paintings including Tahitian Women on the Beach
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — 18 paintings
  • Eugène Jansson — Proletarian Lodgings
  • Henri-Edmond Cross — 10 paintings including The Cypresses in Cagnes
  • Paul Signac — 16 paintings including Women at the Well
  • Theo van Rysselberghe — 6 paintings
  • Félix Vallotton — Misia at Her Dressing Table
  • Georges-Pierre Seurat — 19 paintings including The Circus
  • Edouard Vuillard — 70 paintings
  • Henri Rousseau — 3 paintings
  • Pierre Bonnard — 60 paintings including The Chequered Blouse
  • Paul Sérusier — The Talisman, the Aven River at the Bois d'Amour
  • Maurice Denis — Portrait of the Artist Aged Eighteen, Princess Maleine's Minuet or Marthe Playing the Piano, The Green Trees or Beech Trees in Kerduel, October Night (panel for the decoration of a girl's room)
  • André Derain — Charing Cross Bridge, also known as Westminster Bridge
  • Edvard Munch — 1 painting
  • Gustav Klimt — 1 painting
  • Piet Mondrian — 2 paintings
  • James McNeill Whistler — 3 paintings including Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother, also known as Whistler's Mother
  • William Adolphe Bouguereau — The Birth of Venus
  • Cecilia Beaux – Sita and Sarita (Jeune Fille au Chat)

Major sculptors includes François Rude, Jules Cavelier, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin, Camille Claudel and Honoré Daumier.

Other works

It also holds collections of:

  • architecture and decorative arts
  • photography
Selected collection highlights
  • Eugène Delacroix, The Lion Hunt, c. 1854

  • Gustave Courbet, The Artist's Studio (L'Atelier du peintre): A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, 1855

  • Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, The Source, 1856

  • Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners, 1857

  • Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863

  • Claude Monet, Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, (right section), with Gustave Courbet, 1865-1866

  • Paul Cézanne, Portrait of Achille Emperaire, 1868

  • Eugène Boudin, Bathers on the Beach at Trouville, 1869

  • James McNeill Whistler, Whistler's Mother, a portrait of the artists mother, 1871

  • Gustave Caillebotte, Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers), 1875

  • Edgar Degas, L’Absinthe, 1876

  • Pierre Auguste Renoir, Dance in the Country (Aline Charigot and Paul Lhote), 1883

  • Paul Sérusier, The Talisman/Le Talisman, 1888

  • Vincent van Gogh, The Church at Auvers, 1890

  • Paul Gauguin, Tahitian Women on the Beach, 1891

  • Georges Seurat, The Circus, 1891


The Directors have been:

  • Françoise Cachin: 1986–1994
  • Henri Loyrette: 1994–2001
  • Serge Lemoine: 2001–2008
  • Guy Cogeval: March 2008–present

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