You think you know, but you have no idea…
Okay, maybe opening an article about Paris’ culture-rich history with a line from MTV’s show ‘Diary’ is a bit… off. (But seriously, remember that show?)
Nevermind all that because your brain is going to get soaked in culture right now. Marinated in it. Simmered slow, on low heat, for a few hours until tender…
Wait. No, that’s dinner I’m talking about… but your brain is going to enjoy this I promise!
Have you ever noticed the really massive, beautiful building right across the river from the Louvre in Paris? You know, the big one with the huge clock on it? That’s the Orsay Museum. It may be right next door to the Louvre, but it is not to be overshadowed by its more famous neighbor!
There are some pretty cool facts about the Orsay Museum that I’d like to share. Soak that brain in some culture, people!
Train Station Turned Museum
Okay, let’s start with the easiest, the best-known. The Musée d’Orsay was originally a train station built for the 1900 World Exposition in Paris.
The building itself is just as beautiful as the works of art you can find inside. The museum’s Impressionist collection features artwork from the late 1800s until the early 1900s by a huge variety of really famous artists. Anyone here ever heard of a guy called Vincent Van Gogh? Yeah, well, you can find some of his stuff here!
Like many of Paris’ iconic structures, the Musée d’Orsay had a long history before it ever became a museum. From 1900-1936, all trains headed southwest out of Paris departed from the d’Orsay train station. Eventually, the station became too old fashioned for the newer models of trains, and this is when the station closed its doors.
As an extra fun fact: during World War II, the station played its part in the war efforts and became a mailing center for sending packages to prisoners of war.
Showcase of Homeless Art
In the late 1970s, the Direction des Musées de France agreed that there needed to be a new museum to represent the arts from the second half of the 19th century. Why? There was a ton of artwork from that period, homeless, just lying around.
Yep, Paris is funny like that.
Anyway, someone along the lines put two and two together. Empty train station? Art needing a home? Orsay to the rescue!
In 1978, the building was classified as a historical monument. A commission was created to oversee the adaptation into a museum: the building interior was remodelled in order to correctly house the intended artwork.
Lucky for us, the amazing 19th century architecture of the building’s exterior and interior facade was left intact. You can still see the names of all the different cities trains used to travel to from Orsay, in the stone of the building’s walls!
The new Musée d’Orsay was then opened to the public in 1986.
Collection of the Greats
The collection inside the Musée d’Orsay include pieces by artistic masters such as Delacroix, Rodin, Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Monet. No big deal or anything, right?
Orsay currently ranks 6th most visited site in France. That’s behind places like the Louvre, Versailles, Eiffel Tower, and… Disneyland.
Yep. Told you Paris is funny like that.
The Orsay museum is mostly known for its collection of paintings from the Impressionism art movement, so think dreamy scenes of water lilies à la Monet.
And to keep all those works of art safe and climate-controlled? Orsay treats and air conditions 1 million cubic metres of air per hour.
Unless you are the foremost art professor in the world, the best way to visit is with a guided tour. And if you want to see all the highlights in a fun and funny way, this Orsay Only the Best tour will show you it all and keep you entertained.
Next time your brain needs culture, but you just can’t muster up the courage to beat the lines to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre… why not take a peak at what the Musée d’Orsay has to offer?
Open Tuesday-Sunday 9:30am – 6pm (until 9:45pm on Wednesdays)
12 euro admission
1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris