Paris 2014: The Museums of Paris

Whenever we go to a big city we find one or two museums to visit. Last year we stopped by the British Museum and the Tate Modern during our stay in London. We visited the Van Gogh in Amsterdam the year before that. But Paris must be the museum capital of the world and we visited a total of ten museums there last Spring but if we had more time we could have easily doubled that number. Seven of the ten we visited were within walking distance from our apartment in the Odéon neighborhood (sixth arrondissement).

1. The Louvre (Musée de Louvre). I guess I would have to say this is my favorite museum in the whole world (The Vatican Museums run a close second with the British Museum in London and the Prado in Madrid and the Uffizi in Florence close behind). This is the only museum we visited twice and still didn’t see half of it! We each had a museum pass for our first visit and entered via the Rivoli entrance and it only took 10 minutes (it took that long because we were behind a group of 30 kids at the security point). Our pass had expired by the time we visited the Louvre again and we used the main Pyramid entrance. This time it took 40 minutes to get by security and another 20 minutes in line to buy tickets. We focused our attention on the world-famous art in the Denon wing during our first visit: Italian and French paintings of the Renaissance and the French Romantic painters of the 19th century. On our second visit we spent most of the time in the Richelieu wing with French sculptures and Dutch and Flemish painters of the 16th-17th centuries. On our way out we stopped by the ancient Roman and Greek display in the Sully wing to see Venus de Milo and friends. One disappointment: The Winged Victory of Samothrace display was walled off for restoration.

Everyone goes to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre but many people miss x, another treasure by Leonardo, which is just a room away.

Everyone goes to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre but many people miss La belle feronniere (also known as Portrait of an Unknown Woman), another treasure by Leonardo, which is just a room away.

2. The D’Orsay Museum (Musée d’Orsay). The D’Orsay is a converted railway station right across the Seine from the Louvre. We waited in line for an hour and 15 minutes — and this was the museum pass line! We went on a day when the Louvre was closed. We skipped the specal exhibit – Van Gogh / Artaud. The Man Suicided by Society — which required another line. No cameras allowed — one of 2 museums on this list with this rule. Stay away from the Louvre on Mondays when the D’Orsay is closed and from the D’Orsay on Tuesdays when the Louvre is closed! The D’Orsay covers paintings and sculptures from 1848 to 1915 and has the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the world. Lots of Monets and Manets. Go to the Louvre for earlier art and the Pompidou Centre for later.

Sculptures and the queue in front of the entrance to the D'Orsay.

Sculptures and the queue in front of the entrance to the D’Orsay.

3. The Orangerie Museum (Musée de l’Orangerie). The Orangerie is located on the other side of the Tuileries Garden from the Louvre, not far from the Place de la Concorde. It is the other museum that doesn’t allow cameras. Most people go to this museum for one reason only: to visit the two circular rooms that feature Monet’s Water Lillies. Special exhibits — usually on late 19th century paintings — are located on the lower floor. The exhibit we saw was called Archives of the Dream and featured drawings by Seurat, Degas, Cezanne, Moreau, Millet and others.

4.Luxembourg Museum (Musée du Luxembourg). The Luxembourg was the most convenient museum we visited (two blocks from our apartment). See here for my posting on the special exhibit on Josephine in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of her death. Hemingway in A Movable Feast writes about stopping by to see some large Cezannes for inspiration. Most of the paintings he saw in the 1920s are now in the Louvre or the d’Orsay. The Luxembourg Museum today is restricted to temporary exhibitions.

Some of the paintings exhibited were of flowers from Josephine's famous rose garden at her country estate at x.

Some of the paintings exhibited were of flowers from Josephine’s famous rose garden at  Chateau de Malmaison, her country estate west of Paris.

5. Delacroix Museum (Musée national Eugène Delacroix). This house is where he lived from 1857 until his death in 1863 — halfway between our apartment and the d’Orsay. The exhibit entitled Eugène Delacroix, “the most legitimate of Shakespeare’s sons” featured several drawings and lithographs on Shakespearean themes. Most of Delacroix’s famous paintings are in the Louvre. His later works are in the d’Orsay. We also saw a couple of his murals in St Sulpice.

Delacroix drawing of scene from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Delacroix drawing of scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

6. Cluny Museum, also known as the National Museum of the Middle Ages (Musée national du Moyen Âge). See here for my posting on the Kings of Judah and Notre Dame. Highlights of this museum are the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. The museum is in the 5th arrondissement on the site of ancient Roman baths and a 17th century chateau that used to be the Paris home of the abbots of Cluny.

One of the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.

One of the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.

7. Rodin Museum and garden (Musée Rodin). Rodin is buried in his garden under the statue of The Thinker. Some of his most famous works are in the garden which is free to visit. Rodin was prolific and the mansion contains hundreds of his works. The museum is right across the street from Les Invalides in the 7th arrondissement.

Rodin is buried under his statue of The Thinker (le penseur).

Rodin is buried under his statue of The Thinker (Le Penseur).

8. The Army Museum (Musée de l’Armée). The museum is part of Les Invalides.There was a special exhibit on the Three Musketeers when we were there. There are weapons and uniforms galore in this museum but we were not too impressed. Napoleon’s Tomb under the magnificent Dome next door, however, is a must-see. Admission to the museum includes Napoleon’s Tomb.

Napoleon's Tomb under the dome of Les Invalides.

Napoleon’s Tomb under the dome of Les Invalides.

9. Nissim Camondo Museum (Musée Nissim de Camondo). We took the Metro to Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement to visit this museum. It’s an early 20th century mansion with 18th century decorations. There is a sad story here of a wealthy Jewish family: the war-hero son was killed in action during World War I; the daughter and her entire family perished in the Holocaust.

Wall decor near inside entryway to Nissem Cx museum.

Wall decor near inside entryway to Nissim Camondo museum.

10. Victor Hugo House (Maisons de Victor Hugo). One of the 14 City of Paris museums, this museum can be found in the Place des Vosges on the border of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. See here for my posting on Hugo. We took the Metro to the Bastile stop and then walked to Place des Vosges and afterwards walked all the way back home.

The Oriental Room in Maison de Victor Hugo.

The Oriental Room in Maison de Victor Hugo.

Some of the museums we missed: Centre Georges Pompidou (modern art); Carnavalet Museum (the history of Paris); Petit Palais; Musée Marmottan Monet (more than 300 paintings by Monet); Grand Palais; National Museum of Natural History.

If you plan to go to several museums it’s best to purchase museum passes beforehand. You will save some money and often some time (though we didn’t save much time at the d’Orsay). Click here for more information on museum passes.

Click here to see Wikipedia’s list of all museums within the city limits of Paris.

One final note: The Picasso Museum in the third arrondissement has been closed for several years for remodeling but is scheduled to reopen on October 25, 2014.

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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3 Responses to Paris 2014: The Museums of Paris

  1. Thank you for this wonderful tour and for your beautiful photos!!!

  2. David says:

    Paris 2014: The Museums of Paris

    “7. Rodin Museum and garden (Musée Rodin). Rodin is buried in his garden under the statue of The Thinker.”

    This is NOT true.

    Here is a quote from a reliable website:

    “Auguste Rodin
    Year buried: 1917
    Location: Meudon, France
    Rodin’s Thinker might be the most widely known sculpture of all time. It’s fitting then that the monument marks the side of his grave. The French sculptor who rewrote the rules of the media is buried on the grounds of his home in France, beside his wife Rose. They had married only 10 months earlier.”

    So Rodin is buried near one copy of The Thinker, but not in Paris – in Meudon.

    Thanks for all the rest of the info and photos. Excellent!

  3. mvschulze says:

    Interesting about the real burial site of Rodin. In 1972, my wife, Jeanne, and I came across “the Thinker” outside San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum, in Lincoln Park, …casually wondering (as naive to marriage as we were to art history…) if it was the original! Decades later we would see this same master works in Paris, the one pictured above, a little bit wiser to the originality of THIS, and fully aware of the many copies elsewhere, including, of course, San Francisco! M 🙂

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