|Location||Rue de Lille 75343 Paris, France|
|Type||Art museum, Design/Textile Museum, Historic site|
|Visitors||867,724 (2020) 
|Public transit access||Solférino |
The Musée d'Orsay ( MEW-zay dor-SAY, mew-ZAY -, French: [myze ds?]) is a museum in Paris, France, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Berthe Morisot, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum's opening in 1986. It is one of the largest art museums in Europe.
In 2020 the museum had 867,724 visitors, down 76 percent from attendance in 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the drop, it ranked fifteenth in the list of most-visited art museums in 2020.
The museum building was originally a railway station, Gare d'Orsay, located next to the Seine river. Built on the site of the old Palais d'Orsay, its central location was convenient for commuting travelers. The station was constructed for the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans and finished in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle to the design of three architects: Lucien Magne, Émile Bénard and Victor Laloux. The Gare d'Orsay design was considered to be an "anachronism." Since trains were such a modern innovation for the time architects and designers alike expected a building that would embody the modern traits of this new mode of transportation. Gare d'Orsay instead gained inspiration from the past for the concept of the facade to the point of masking the cutting-edge technology within. It was the terminus for the railways of southwestern France until 1939.
By 1939 the station's short platforms had become unsuitable for the longer trains that had come to be used for mainline services. After 1939 it was used for suburban services and part of it became a mailing centre during World War II. It was then used as a set for several films, such as Kafka's The Trial adapted by Orson Welles, and as a haven for the Renaud-Barrault Theatre Company and for auctioneers, while the Hôtel Drouot was being rebuilt.
In the 1970s work began on building a 1 km-long tunnel under the station as part of the creation of line C of the Réseau Express Régional with a new station under the old station. In 1970, permission was granted to demolish the station but Jacques Duhamel, Minister for Cultural Affairs, ruled against plans to build a new hotel in its stead. The station was put on the supplementary list of Historic Monuments and finally listed in 1978. The suggestion to turn the station into a museum came from the Directorate of the Museum of France. The idea was to build a museum that would bridge the gap between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art at the Georges Pompidou Centre. The plan was accepted by Georges Pompidou and a study was commissioned in 1974. In 1978, a competition was organized to design the new museum. ACT Architecture, a team of three young architects (Pierre Colboc, Renaud Bardon and Jean-Paul Philippon), were awarded the contract which involved creating 20,000 square metres (220,000 sq ft) of new floorspace on four floors. The construction work was carried out by Bouygues. In 1981, the Italian architect Gae Aulenti was chosen to design the interior including the internal arrangement, decoration, furniture and fittings of the museum. The arrangement of the galleries she designed was elaborate and inhabited the three main levels that are under the museum's barrel vault atrium. On the main level of the building, a central nave was formed by the surrounding stone structures that were previously the building's train platforms. The central nave's structures break up the immense sculpture and gallery spaces and provided more organized units for viewing the art. In July 1986, the museum was ready to receive its exhibits. It took 6 months to install the 2000 or so paintings, 600 sculptures and other works. The museum officially opened in December 1986 by then-president François Mitterrand.
At any time about 3,000 art pieces are on display within Musée d'Orsay. Within the museum is a 1:100 scale model created by Richard Peduzzi of an aerial view of Paris Opera and surrounding area encapsulated underneath glass flooring that viewers walk on as they proceed through the museum. This installation allows the viewers to understand the city planning of Paris at the time, which has made this attraction one of the most popular within the museum.
Another exhibit within the museum is "A Passion for France: The Marlene and Spencer Hays Collection". This collection was donated by an Marlene and Spencer Hays, art collectors who reside in Texas and have been collecting art since the early 1970s. In 2016 the museum complied to keeping the collection of about 600 art pieces in one collection rather than dispersed throughout other exhibits. Since World War II, France has not been donated a collection of foreign art this large. The collection favors mostly post-impressionist works. Artists featured in this collection are Bonnard, Vuillard, Maurice Denis, Odilon Redon, Aristide Maillol, André Derain, Edgar Degas, and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. To make room for the art that has been donated, the Musée d'Orsay is scheduled to undergo a radical transformation over the next decade, 2020 on. This remodel is funded in part by an anonymous US patron who donated EUR20 million to a building project known as Orsay Grand Ouvert (Orsay Wide Open). The gift was made via the American Friends of the Musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie. The projected completion date is 2026, implementing new galleries and education opportunities to endorse a conductive experience.
The square next to the museum displays six bronze allegorical sculptural groups in a row, originally produced for the Exposition Universelle:
The art form of sculpture was in high demand in the 19th century and became a widely used as a way to display a person's social and political standings as well as represent the ideologies during this time period. However, In the mid 20th century sculptures began to become obsolete due to many of the sculptures relating to authority. After the change in view on many of the sculptures from the 19th century they began to be set aside in storage and were no longer being set out for display. It wasn't until the conversion of the Orsay railway station into the Musée d'Orsay museum in the 1970s that sculptures from the 19th century were seen of importance again. The substantial nave inside the new museum offered a perfect area for the display of sculptures. During the grand opening on December, 1986 of the museum 1,200 different sculptures were present. The sculpture were brought in from various different collections such as, the Lourve, state loans, and Musée du Luxembourg. The museum also obtained over 200 sculptures before opening though donations of art connoisseurs, the lineage of artists, and overall people in support of the Musée d'Orsay.
Since the grand opening in 1986 the museum has collected works from exchanges that other museum's or institutions once showcases such as Nature Unveiling Herself Before Science by Louis-Ernest Barrias that was initially commissioned for Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, as well as, The Thought and The Gates of Hell from Auguste Rodin. The museum also purchases specific works to fill gaps and finish the astounding collections already in the museum such as one of the panels of Be Mysterious by Paul Gauguin, the full set of Honoré Daumier's Célébrités du Juste Milieu, and Maturity by Camille Claudel. There are currently over 2,200 sculptures that are in the Musée d'Orsay.
Major sculptors represented in the collection include Alfred Barye, François Rude, Jules Cavelier, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Émile-Coriolan Guillemin, Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin, Camille Claudel, Sarah Bernhardt and Honoré Daumier.
It also holds collections of:
Eugène Delacroix, The Lion Hunt, c. 1854
Eugène Boudin, Bathers on the Beach at Trouville, 1869
Georges Lacombe, L'Existence, 1894-1896
Albert Lebourg, Paris, l'écluse de la Monnaie. Soleil d'hiver
József Rippl-Rónai, Female with Flower, 1891
Louise Catherine Breslau, Portrait of Henry Davison, 1880.
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, La Vuelta de la Pesca, 1894
Africa by Eugène Delaplanche,1878
The Directors have been: