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Discover the World of Impressionism at Orsay Museum Paris

Nestled on the left bank of the Seine River, Musee d’Orsay boasts a vast collection of the unparalleled works of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists like Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, and more. Embark on a...

Also Known As

Orsay Museum

Founded On

1986

Founded By

Victor Laloux

Quick information

RECOMMENDED DURATION

2 hours

VISITORS PER YEAR

3000000

NUMBER OF ENTRANCES

4

UNESCO YEAR

1991

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Fun facts

1. Musee d’Orsay has an extensive collection of over 45,000 photographs, making it one of the first French museums to recognize photography as a form of art.

2. The museum features reconstructed rooms from the apartments of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, offering a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the 19th-century French ruling class.

3. Orsay Museum is mentioned in numerous written works, including an acclaimed literary work, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery.

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Musée d'Orsay Paris Collection

Being the second most visited museum in Paris, there is a lot to see at Musée d'Orsay in a day. The attraction is home to some of the most influential paintings, sculptures, photography, and decorative art collections set in the period between 1848 and 1914. The permanent collection at Orsay Museum has been evenly spread across on four levels. 

Orsay Museum

Works from 1848-1870s

Ground Level

The galleries on the right side of this floor focus on the evolution of historical painting, the Academic and pre-symbolist schools highlighting works produced by Ingres, Delacroix, Moreau, and Degas. The galleries on the left focus on Naturalism, Realism, and pre-impressionism. You will see works created by Courbet, Corot, Millet, and Manet as well as architecture, sculptural, and decorative objects from the mid-19th century eclecticism movement.

Orsay Museum

Works from Late 19th century

Middle Level

Here, you will find paintings, pastels, and decorative objects all from the late 19th century. It also holds a massive collection of Art Nouveau decorations, spanning over six rooms. The galleries facing the Seine on this floor is dedicated to Naturalist and Symbolist artwork, along with decorations belonging to public monuments. The work of foreign artists such as Klimt and Munch can also be found on this floor. The galleries located on the southern side of this floor feature works of Maurice Denis, Roussel, and Bonnard.

Orsay Museum

Works by Neo-Impressionists

Upper Level (2)

This level is a tribute to the works created by Neo-Impressionists, Nabists, and the Pont-Aven painters. You will be able to spot some of the innovative and unconventional techniques shown in their paintings and pastels. Some of the famous works done by Gaugin, Seurat, Signac, and Toulouse-Lautrec are displayed here. This level also features a gallery exclusively for small format paintings.

Orsay Museum

Works from the Impressionist and Expressionist movements

Top Floor/Upper Level (1)

The upper floor, without a doubt, has some of the most spectacular works. You will find post-Impressionist works by Degas, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, and Caillebotte. If you don't have a lot of time to spend at Orsay, we would recommend starting your tour on this floor. Photography, architecture, and cinema works are also exhibited here.

Sculpture by Auguste Rodin

Works of Rodin

Terrace 

This area contains 19th-century sculpture art forms, with an entire wing incorporating the works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. From here, you will also be able to enjoy some scenic views of Paris and spot some major attractions such as the Seine, the Louvre Museum, Tuileries Garden all the way to the Sacre Coeur.

Brief History of Orsay Museum in Paris

  • 1615: Following Marguerite de Valois' death, the land opposite the Louvre and Tuileries Gardens is sold, leading to the construction of mansions.
  • 1708: Approval for a Seine River quay is granted but postponed until Napoleon Bonaparte's reign a century later.
  • 1810-1838: The site transforms from cavalry barracks to the Palais d’Orsay, housing the Court of Accounts and the State Council.
  • 1871: The Palais d’Orsay succumbs to fire during the Paris Commune.
  • 1900: Architect Victor Alexandre Frederic Laloux designs the Gare d’Orsay railway station for the 1900 World Fair.
  • 1939: Gare d’Orsay ceases operations due to technological advancements.
  • World War II: The station serves as a wartime mailing centre.
  • 1962: Orson Welles films "The Trial" at Gare d’Orsay.
  • 1973: Gare d’Orsay shuts down.
  • 1975: Approval to transform the station into a museum is granted.
  • 1977: Gare d’Orsay gains historical building status.
  • 1986: French President Francois Mitterrand inaugurates the Orsay Museum, housing 19th and 20th-century artworks.
  • 1980s: The museum expands with art collections from the National Museum of Modern Art, Jeu de Paume, and Louvre, encompassing decorative arts, architecture, and photographs.

Who Built Orsay Museum?

The Orsay Museum is a renovated and repurposed structure that was originally the Gare d'Orsay railway station. The railway station was designed by architects Lucien Magne, Émile Bénard and Victor Laloux, and was constructed for the World Fair of 1900. The transformation of the railway station into a museum in the 1970s involved architectural adaptations and renovations by a team of architects, with Gae Aulenti playing a significant role in the project. The museum was officially inaugurated in 1986.

Architecture of Orsay Museum

Orsay Museum Paris exterior

Musée d'Orsay's exterior reflects Beaux-Arts architecture with an elegant façade and intricate sculptures, while grand arches and a symmetrical layout enhance its opulent aesthetic. Gae Aulenti's renovation seamlessly integrates Beaux-Arts heritage with modern elements, preserving original features. The glass-and-steel roof floods the interior with light, creating a bright ambiance. The interior design balances grandeur and functionality, repurposing the central nave as a spacious hall, and original steel trusses add an industrial touch.

Frequently Asked Questions About Orsay Museum Paris

What is the Orsay Museum?

The Musée d'Orsay, also known as Orsay, is a museum in Paris, France that mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It is also home to the world's largest collection of impressionist paintings.

Do I need tickets to enter the Orsay Musuem in Paris?

Yes, you need tickets to enter the Orsay Museum. You can buy tickets to Orsay Museum online.

Why is the Orsay Museum important?

The Orsay Museum in Paris houses some of the most important impressionist works, including Edouard Manet's Lunch on the Grass, Gustave Courbet's The Origin of the World, Vincent Van Gogh's Self-Portrait, and Monet's Poppy Field.

When was Orsay Museum built?

The building that houses Orsay Musuem was originally built as a train station in 1900. The Orsay Museum opened to the public in 1986.

Where is the Orsay Museum located in Paris?

The Orsay Museum is located at 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris, France. 

What can I see inside the Orsay Museum in Paris?

The Orsay Museum holds mostly French art from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s in paintings, furniture, sculptures, and more. Some popular painters displayed here include Vincent Van Gogh, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and Piet Mondrian.

What are the timings for Orsay Museum?

The Orsay Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am - 6 pm, and the last admission is at 5 pm. The museum is open late on Thursdays, until 9:45 pm, though the last access is at 9 pm.

When is the Orsay Museum closed?

The Orsay Museum is closed every Monday, and also on May 1 and December 25.

Is photography allowed at Orsay Museum?

Photography for private purposes is allowed at Orsay Museum.

What is the history of Orsay Museum?

Originally a railway station constructed for the 1900 World Fair, Gare d’Orsay became the Orsay Museum in 1986 after a proposal to convert it into a museum was accepted in 1975. The museum now houses 19th and 20th-century artworks.