The Musee d'Orsay:
Primarily Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art.

The Musee d'Orsay, after the Musee du Louvre, is probably the next most famous Paris museum. This is the museum to go to to see the art of the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists.

The Orsay Museum displays art that was created from 1848-1914. Since Paris was the most important artistic centre in the world for much of this time period, much of the art on display here was created in Paris or by artists who lived in Paris at some time.

The building that houses the Musee d'Orsay, as is the case for many of the Paris museums, is very beautiful and provides part of the appeal to taking a tour. This museum is in a building that used to be a train station.

The Orsay Museum displays art that was created from 1848-1914. Since Paris was the most important artistic centre in the world for much of this time period, much of the art on display here was created in Paris or by artists who lived in Paris at some time.

The building that houses the Musee d'Orsay, as is the case for many of the Paris museums, is very beautiful and provides part of the appeal to taking a tour. This museum is in a building that used to be a train station.

A Little History on the Musee d'Orsay:

The museum is named after Charles Boucher, seigneur d’Orsay, councillor at Parliament, Prevost of the Paris merchants.

In 1810, Napoleon decided to build the “Palais du Quai d’Orsay” in the style of renaissance-inspired Neoclassicism. The Paris Commune set the building on fire and destroyed it in May 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War.

As part of the preparations for the fifth world’s Fair in 1900, the “Exposition Universelle”, they built a railroad station on the site. This was called the “Gare d’Orsay”.

The Gare d’Orsay was built in a design that was meant to be reminiscent of the ancient Roman thermal baths. The tracks at this train station were indoors, because they had started using electric locomotives instead of steam locomotives. The steam trains had had too much exhaust for indoor tracks.

The 320 room station hotel called the “Palais d’Orsay” was built adjacent to the Gare d’Orsay. It was decorated by Adrien Moreau-Neret and Pierre Fritel (ballroom), Gabriel-Joseph-Amrie Augustin Ferrier (the restaurant), and Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (the reading room).

The Gare d’Orsay was busy for 40 years but then became obsolete because it was too small and the platforms were too short for international trains. In 1939, Gare d’Austerlitz became the line’s main station, and by 1950, Gare d’Orsay only had a few suburban trains running through it.

For about the next 20 years, the largely unused space sat mostly empty, except for small periods of time when it was rented out. It was rented out for random purposes such as film sets, theatre, and storage space. The hotel “Palais d’Orsay” closed in 1973.

In the 1960’s, the Gare d’Orsay was set to be demolished and be replaced by a luxury hotel. In early 1971, the city refused the demolition permit because Paris’ Les Halles (an 800 year-old marketplace) had just been destroyed so they wanted to pacify the public outcry from that.

In 1973, President Georges Pompidou announced the Gare d’Orsay would become a museum of 19th century art. President Valery Giscard d’Estaing opened competition on the design in 1978. And the museum finally opened as the Musee d’Orsay in 1986, as a museum covering the era of 1848-1914.

Visiting the Musee d'Orsay:

The Musee d’Orsay does not open Mondays.

The museum is free to the public every first Sunday of the month.

For the most up to date information on entrance fees to the Musee d'Orsay, check out the museum’s official site.