From Monet to Van Gogh | Discover the Exquisite Orsay Museum Collection
Orsay Museum, known in French as Musée d'Orsay, is a history museum that primarily houses modern art from 1848 to 1915. Its collection focuses on impressionism and post-impressionism and is known for masterpieces by artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Here's everything you need to know about the Orsay collection, which includes paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and photographs.
Explore the Orsay Collection
Orsay Museum’s collection contains over 6000 artworks, out of which the permanent exhibits consists of about 3000 pieces, including artworks sourced from other museums such as the Louvre.
The permanent collection houses paintings, sculptures, medals, decorative art, photographs, graphic arts pastels, and architectural elements. Notable paintings include masterpieces like London, The Parliament, and Poppies by Monet, and The Starry Night and Self-Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh. Among the collection of numerous sculptures, The Age of Bronze by Auguste Rodin is a classic.
Orsay Collection Highlights | What to Look For
The paintings in the Orsay collection came from other museums in France. Over the course of the reign of various monarchs, the nature of artworks acquired by the museum changed. It was after the 1860s era of impressionism that the style took center stage at the Orsay Museum. The paintings displayed in the museum today consist of modern masterpieces such as Ball at the Moulin de la Galette by Auguste Renoir, Olympia the 1883 painting by Edouard Manet, and The Angelus by Jean-François Millet.
The Orsay collection of sculptures includes over 1200 items. Most of these pieces were passed on from museums like the Musée du Luxembourg. In 1881, a bronze male nude sculpture known as The Age of Brass by Auguste Rodin was acquired by the museum. Ratapoil, the famous political statue by Honoré Daumier, became a part of the Orsay Museum’s collection in 1891. Antoine Bourdelle's Ludwig van Beethoven bust made its way into the museum in 1905.
When the Orsay Collection decided to start a section for photographs in 1978, no National Museum in France had a similar segment. The photography section in Orsay includes images dating back to 1839. Photographs between 1839 to 1863 depict the golden age of French and English photography. This collection includes 40 prints by pioneering French artist Gustave Le Gray. The Orsay collection also includes over a thousand images taken by French-American lensman Paul Burty-Haviland.
Orsay Museum’s collection of decorative arts consists of thousands of rare artifacts sourced from different parties. A very wide campaign was carried out by the State to acquire furniture, silverware, ceramics, enamels, and glassware from places like Musée du Luxembourg and the Louvre Museum. Some of the prestigious works on display are Lars Kinsarvik's Armchair from the 1900s and French Nouveau artist Émile Gallé's Mysterious Grapes.
Graphic Art & Pastels
The graphic arts department in the Orsay Museum has over 80,000 drawings. Arts belonging to the second half of the 19th century are featured in the collection. Some of the important works on display are The Black Knot by Georges Seurat, a self-portrait of Gustave Courbet, and Portrait of Manet by Edgar Degas. The bouquet of daisies by Jean-François Millet is an important exhibit in the pastels section, which houses around 500 artworks.
It's interesting to note that the building that houses the Orsay Museum was once a train station. Today, the museum pays tribute to the stunning techniques prevalent in the construction of the Orsay Museum building and other similar structures in and around Paris. The materials, decorative art, and architectural drawings make up around 18,000 objects on display. Contributions of masters such as Victor Baltard, Félix Duban, and Charles Garnier, are the attraction of this collection.
Temporary Collections at Orsay Museum
Along with a permanent collection on display, the Orsay museum collection often features temporary exhibitions known as moving collections.
Happy years | Denise photographed by Her Father Émile Zola.
These photos, taken by French literary giant Emile Zola show his clandestine life. An amateur photographer, Zola has captured over 10,000 images in his life as he moved from one city to another. The photos on display at the museum are of Denise, his daughter, whose portraits were clicked between 1898 and 1899.
Date: February 3, 2022 - June 1, 2022
Location: Cabinet de photographie, Room 8 C
Works on Deposit
Orsay collection has a deposit of over 5000 artworks. These art pieces are kept within the museum as a reserve for public exhibitions or to lend to other museums. The artworks in the deposits get regular verification to assess their condition. The museum also handles deposits from other museums such as the Louvre or the National Museum of Modern Art.
Art restoration is an integral part of protecting the artworks, some of which are centuries old. Orsay museum undertakes various restoration techniques such as preventive conservation, facial protection, and the restoration of old frames. In 2018, a Restoration Commission was created in place to examine the artworks and preserve them.
The Cinema in the Permanent Course
From the very beginning, the Orsay collection has dedicated a room for cinema. The exhibits in the collection pay tribute to cinematography and the history of the medium. Films are also shown during the temporary exhibitions.
- All visitors aged 15 and above are required to present a Covid-19 vaccination pass to visit the Orsay Museum. For visitors aged 12 to 15, a health pass is mandatory. Everyone above age six should wear a face mask.
- The Orsay collection has hundreds of artifacts on display spanning four floors. Since there's a lot to see, it's wise to plan in advance which sections require your attention and your priorities - paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, or photographs.
- Choose a guided tour. The Orsay collection, without any doubt, is one of the world's most important fine art ensembles. Learn about all the masterpieces from an expert tour guide.
- The Orsay Museum is visited by millions of people every year, so buy your tickets online and in advance. It saves time and avoids queuing.
- Don't miss the Van Gogh masterpieces like Bedroom in Arles, Cows in a Meadow, Head of a Dutch Peasant Woman, and The Starry Night.
Combo: Palace of Versailles + Orsay Museum Tickets
Frequently Asked Questions About the Orsay Collection
A. Orsay collection consists of about 6,000 artworks, out of which around 3,000 are on display.
A. We recommend spending about 2 to 3 hours to see the entire Orsay collection.
A. The Orsay collection consists of thousands of artworks across different genres such as paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs.
A. Some of the most famous paintings in the Orsay collection include Ball at the Moulin de la Galette by Auguste Renoir, Olympia the 1883 painting by Edouard Manet, and The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.
A. The best artworks of the Orsay collection include The Age of Brass by Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet paintings such as London, the Parliament, and Poppies, and the famous self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.
A. No. The original Orsay collection consists of 6000 artworks, but the permanent collection only displays 3000 pieces.
A. Some of the notable sculptures in the Orsay collection are The Age of Brass by Auguste Rodin, Ratapoil by Honoré Daumier, and Ludwig van Beethoven bust by Antoine Bourdelle.
A. Some of the famous photographs displayed in the Orsay collection are of Paul Burty-Haviland and Gustave Le Gray.