Orangerie Museum: Best Tips For Visiting In 2023

The Orangerie Museum (in French, Musée de l’Orangerie) started out as a greenhouse for orange trees, but now houses an extraordinary collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, including some of Claude Monet‘s masterpieces. Although it is reasonably smaller than other museums in the French capital, the collections are really interesting and its location in the heart of the Tuileries Garden is ideal.

Another factor in favor of the Orangerie Museum is the fact that it’s not as popular and busy as its neighbors the Louvre Museum or the Orsay Museum, providing a much more relaxed and personal visit. Being able to enjoy Monet’s wonderful “Water Lilies” without a barrier of noisy tourists – as happens with the “Mona Lisa” – is undoubtedly an asset!

So, do you want to know more about the Orangerie Museum: Best Tips For Visiting In 2023? Keep reading!

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Orangerie Museum
Orangerie Museum

Brief History of the Orangerie Museum

In 1852, a greenhouse was built to house the orange trees of the Tuileries Palace. The building, located at the western end of the Tuileries Garden, was created with a south glass façade (to let in sunlight) and a north façade with no windows (to prevent the cold winds).

With the fall of the Second Empire of Napoleon III in 1870 and the fire that destroyed the Tuileries Palace the following year, the Orangerie (or “Orange Grove”, in French), became the state property and was repurposed to serve as a space for events related to horticulture.

Decades later, the statesman Georges Clemenceau suggested that the series of “Nymphéas” paintings, donated by Claude Monet to the State, should be exhibited at the Orangerie. Therefore, the artist designed two oval rooms, with natural light and forming the infinity symbol, to display the eight panels of “Water Lilies” (each one 2 meters wide)!

The so-called Musée Claude Monet was inaugurated by Georges Clemenceau himself on May 17th, 1927, already after the death of the impressionist painter. Later, the art gallery was attached to the Musée du Luxembourg and formally renamed Musée National de l’Orangerie des Tuileries.

What to See at the Orangerie Museum

The Musée de l’Orangerie has on permanent display 156 paintings conceived between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century and from two donations: “Water Lillies” by Claude Monet and the private collection of Domenica Walter. Most authors are of French nationality, but there are artists from Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and the old Russian Empire:

  • André Derain: 30 works of art
  • Auguste Renoir: 25 works of art
  • Chaïm Soutine: 22 works of art
  • Paul Cézanne: 15 works of art
  • Pablo Picasso: 12 works of art
  • Henri Matisse and Maurice Utrillo: 10 works of art (each)
  • Claude Monet: 9 works of art, including the 8 famous “Water Lillies”
  • Henri Rousseau: 9 works of art
  • Marie Laurencin: 6 works of art
  • Amedeo Modigliani: 5 works of art
  • Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley e Kees Van Dongen: 1 work of art (each)

With Apollinaire as his mentor, Paul Guillaume quickly opened his first art gallery and began to negotiate works of art and to sponsor artists such as Chaïm Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani. From the 1910s until his death in 1934, the collector gathered dozens of works by Renoir, Cézanne, Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso, Derain, and Soutine.

After his death, his wife Domenica married the architect Jean Walter and continued the collection of her first husband, selling and buying paintings according to her tastes. In 1959, she donated all the works of art to the French State, which started exhibiting them at the Musée de l’Orangerie under the name “La collection Jean Walter et Paul Guillaume”.

“Les Nymphéas”, by Claude Monet (Ground Floor, Rooms 2 and 3)

The day after the Armistice (November 11th, 1918), Claude Monet decided to offer a set of paintings to the French state as a symbol of peace. Surprisingly, this collection of “Water Lillies” (in French, “Les Nymphéas”) belonged to a series of paintings on the theme, which the artist had started almost thirty years before!

Inspired by the Water Garden he owned at his home in Giverny, Monet was able to capture the changing sunlight in Nature, portraying the passing of the hours from dawn to dusk. The bucolic landscapes of these works of art are punctuated by water lilies and weeping willows, as well as by the reflection of trees and clouds in the water.

The painting in the photograph is called “Reflets Verts” and is in Room 2, along with “Matin”, “Les Nuages” and “Soleil couchant” (the cover of this article). At the same time, you can see the paintings “Les Deux Saules”, “Le Matin clair aux saules”, “Le matin aux saules” and “Reflets d’arbre” in Room 3.

“Baigneuse aux cheveux longs”, by Auguste Renoir (Floor -2, Room 9)

“Bather with long hair” was painted around 1895-96 and is part of a series of works on “naked women bathing”, that Auguste Renoir created from the late 1880s until his death in 1919.

This theme is certainly due to a trip that the painter made to Italy at the beginning of the decade. There, he saw the classic sculptures displayed in the art galleries, gaining new ideas to approach the human female nude.

In this case, the blonde woman portrayed by Renoir finds herself emerging from the water while grabbing a towel. As far as is known, the use of this fabric was inspired by the cloths covering the classic Italian statues, that the artist admired so much.

The background denounces that the scene takes place outdoors and in a rural and springlike environment. The painting has plenty of bright colors and the young woman’s luminous skin stands out from everything else. Auguste Renoir was known for the realistic effect of the light in his works, thanks to the care with which he created the reflections on the models’ skin.

“Portrait de Mademoiselle Chanel”, by Marie Laurencin (Floor -2, Room 11)

In 1923, the French fashion designer Coco Chanel hired Marie Laurencin to paint her portrait. At that time, the artist worked for Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes, designing the costumes and sets for Francis Poulenc‘s ballet “Les Biches”.

In this painting, Laurencin painted the model with a downcast face, while the harmony of the pastel colors is interrupted by Chanel‘s long black scarf. As a result, the stylist hated the portrait and refused to buy it in the end.

In addition to its characteristic soft tones, the painter loved to bring young women and animals together in the same scene, in almost ethereal environments. In the museum, her other paintings are easily recognized by this style: “Danseuses espagnoles” (1921), “Les Biches” (1923), “Femmes au chien” (1924-25), and “Portrait de Madame Paul Guillaume” (1924-28).

“Nu à la cruche”, by André Derain (Floor -2, Room 12)

André Derain is the most represented painter at the Orangerie Museum. Interestingly, the artist also designed sets and costumes for the Ballets Russes, in this case for the ballet “La Boutique fantasque” (1919).

Since 1924, he started to be sponsored by Paul Guillaume, a partnership that ended ten years later with the collector’s death. This painting “Female Nude with a Jug” from 1924-25 is one of the first of that time and depicts a female figure outdoors.

Derain liked to paint nudes in communion with nature, especially rocks or sand. Finally, the model’s body – outlined in black – is not always represented realistically. Notice, for example, the fingers and toes, which look almost like a sketch!

“Rue du Mont-Cenis”, by Maurice Utrillo (Floor -2, Room 13)

Maurice Utrillo was born in the bohemian Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, the son of a model and painter. Since he was an alcoholic from an early age – which would cost him a few stays in asylums – he started to paint to distract himself. At first, he shared his mother’s studio at 12 Rue Cortrot in Montmartre, but then he started selling his works and even participated in the Salon d’Automne (an annual art exhibition held in Paris).

Montmartre provided him with themes for hundreds of paintings, as Utrillo liked to represent buildings or streets that inspired him, as was the case with the painting Rue du Mont-Cenis. Dating from 1914, this painting “Rue du Mont-Cenis” is part of a very prolific period in his life, characterized by the excessive use of pasted white. The artist achieved this thick mixture by adding plaster that was then manufactured at the Butte Montmartre.

The house that can be seen with a French flag was the home of the composer Hector Berlioz between 1834 and 1837. Utrillo portrayed the same building in another painting, “La Maison de Berlioz”, which is also in the Orangerie Museum. Shortly after, Paul Guillaume discovered his works and in 1922, he organized an exhibition with about 35 works of the painter, bringing him great fame.

“Garçon d’honneur”, by Chaïm Soutine (Floor -2, Room 15)

Born in Lithuania, Chaïm Soutine arrived in Paris in 1912 and was part of the École de Paris, a group of foreign artists who worked in the capital in the first decades of the 20th century. His style was similar to expressionism and varied little, but allowed him to create paintings in series.

In the early 1920s, Soutine traveled through the south of France and portrayed turbulent landscapes, now on display in the museum. In addition, the artist developed a macabre fascination with dead hunted animals, as some works suggest.

On the other hand, he also liked to portray young men, especially choir boys and hotel and restaurant employees. In this case, he used contrasting and vivid colors, despite distorting the bodies. “Garçon d’honneur” won the title for the model’s clothing, which resembles a best man.

Paul Guillaume was one of the painter’s greatest patrons and, today, the Musée de l’Orangerie houses the largest collection of works of art by Chaïm Soutine in all of Europe.

Practical Guide to the Orangerie Museum

As I said in the introduction, the Orangerie Museum is relatively small and easy to visit. The opening hours are from 9 am to 6 pm, the last entry is at 5:15 pm and the rooms start to close half an hour later. The museum can be visited every day, except on Tuesdays and public holidays May 1st, July 14th (morning only), and December 25th. There’s free wifi everywhere and audio guides are available at the entrance, for €5 and in 9 different languages.

On floor -1 – between the Claude Monet collection (floor 0) and the Jean Walter & Paul Guillaume collection (floor -2) – there is a small Café Space open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and a Bookshop-Gift Shop that operates from 9 am to 5:45 pm. On the top floor, there’s also an auditorium, a didactic room, a reading room for children, and a large space for temporary exhibitions.

1. Take Advantage of the First Sunday of the Month

There are only two fares to visit the museum: €12.50 (full) and €10 (reduced) and tickets can be purchased at the online ticket office of the Orangerie Museum. Despite that, it’s important to note that the second price applies to cases like people accompanying children under 18 years old, residing in the European Union.

As for free entry, it’s granted to all minors under 18 and young people between 18 and 25 years old, with nationality and/or (long-term) residents of a European Union country. Likewise, everyone can freely access the museum on the first Sunday of each month!

2. The Museum Continues Outside!

The Musée de l’Orangerie underwent a major overhaul between 2000 and 2006 when it gained two underground floors. When it reopened on May 17th, 2006 – 79 years after its inauguration – the museum was surrounded by several sculptures.

Along the northern façade, visitors can admire Alain Kirili‘s “Grand Commandement blanc” (1986) and three bronze statues by Auguste Rodin: “Eve” (1881-89), “L’Ombre” (1881-1904) and “Méditation avec bras” ( 1881-1905).

In front of the museum is one of the best-known French sculptures: a bronze replica of “Le Baiser”, also by Rodin. Finally, on the opposite side (by the river), there’s “Reclining Nude” (1951) by Henry Moore and a replica of “Le Lion au serpent” by Antoine-Louis Barye.

3. Enjoy the Tuileries Garden

The Tuileries Garden (in French, Jardin des Tuileries) is one of the most pleasant Parisian parks for strolling and relaxing. First of all, its location is perfect: by the river Seine and between the Place de la Concorde (towards the Avenue des Champs-Elysées) and the Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel (towards the Louvre Museum).

Second, the garden is full of history: it was created in Italian style in the 16th century, at the request of Catherine de’ Medici to decorate the exterior of the Tuileries Palace. Then, in 1664, the famous architect André Le Nôtre – who designed the gardens of the Palace of Versailles – converted it into a French garden, with symmetrical shapes and ornamental statues.

If you want, you can also visit the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, an art center dedicated to photography and multimedia from the 20th and 21st centuries. Or, simply take the opportunity to relax in one of the many green iron chairs and enjoy this “green lung” in the middle of the 1er arrondissement!

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