Maybe you have seen Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. If you have followed this blog more than a little while, you will know that I am about a short step away from being completely obsessed with it. I think I know every line and I pull them out in appropriate scenarios. I began reading into the Lost Generation after viewing it. I love the witty conversations and slyly incorporated fixtures of 1920’s Paris all through the film. Even the music transports me to Paris!
Ok, so maybe I am obsessed with it.
In the film, there is a great scene inside one of Paris’s most incredible -and commonly forgotten- museums: Musee de l’Orangerie. My fourth time in Paris, and I had never visited this stunning collection-I simply can’t believe that! If you want to get up close to some incredible impressionist art, this is your stop.
The building, constructed in 1852 as a winter home for the orange trees that lined the garden of the Tuileries Palace and later used for various events including dog and horticulture shows, eventually became an exhibition space for artists such as Rubens, Degas, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Claude Monet offered his massive Water Lilies collection to the French State directly following the Armistice of 1918 as a symbol of peace. Which is the exact feeling you get when standing before these one of a kind paintings, wrapping a total of 90 meters around the rooms that were specifically built to display them. They were inaugurated in 1927, shortly after Monet’s death. He had, however, already known what the exhibition would look like, as he weighed heavily in the design of the east-west, naturally lit oval rooms that form an infinity shape. He intended visitors to be immersed in a state of grace. I would have to say that he was wildly successful.
In 1946, the l’Orangerie displayed the masterpieces of French private collections, which had been recovered in Germany by who we know today as the Monuments Men. In 1959, however, the acquisition of the private collection of Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume put the museum on the map as it became France’s first museum of French modern art. His collection can be viewed in the basement and includes both better and lesser known artists from the early twentieth century.
I can say definitively that this is one of Paris’s most amazing and immersive museums. The blank white walls wrapped with Monet’s color rich and peaceful Water Lilies help you to forget the bustling city outside, and fall into a idyllic landscape with -literally- no horizon.
I cannot believe that it took me 4 visits to Paris to finally stand in front of these masterpieces. In Midnight in Paris, Rachel McAdams’ character calls it “over-whelming.” I agree, but rather than her snobbish conclusion, I find it blissfully overwhelming. I was overwhelmed by the details in the seemingly simple paintings and the small brush strokes that create such a monumental piece of art.
Don’t wait four times to visit this museum. Make it one of your first stops. Without a doubt, the line will be shorter than that of the Louvre, just a short walk away. And the experience will be much more enjoyable. Tres bien!