Musee d'Orangerie Paris Reviews
Monet's waterlillies Apr 30, 2011
The Musee d’Orangerie is a small, beautiful museum in the Jardin des Tuilleries.. It has a display of eight of Monet’s giant waterlily paintings in natural light, some nice twentieth century art, and the world’s least organised security system.
Set in an old Orangery (read “giant eighteenth or nineteenth century stone greenhouse”), the building is approached past a very nice Henry Moore statue or a version of Rodin’s “The Kiss.”
You can join a shorter queue if you have a museum pass (that thing is worth it just for its queue cutting powers!) but even so, you have to go through the world’s most confusing security line. This is where your bags are x-rayed, then the security guy says to check your bag at reception. The reception lady refuses to check it on the grounds of it being a sac a main (handbag/ purse) and she can’t take responsibility for the contents, and you go to agree. But it still takes a five minute shouted conversation with security guy, of which you understand about a quarter because when you did French almost 20 years ago in school they didn’t think to teach you the French for “your colleague at the x-ray machine,” “it’s OK, I’ve taken the valuables out and put them in my pocket” or “for the love of God, will you lot just make up your minds?” and if they had you’d have forgotten it by now. I suggest you manage the situation by suddenly and abruptly forgetting you speak any French at all and walk off, politely, in English.
The museum itself is beautiful. The main event is definitely the waterlilies, painted towards the end of Monet’s career and given to the French nation after world war 1 as a gift for peace. And they are very peaceful, showing the surface of a beautiful pond, in different lights and times of day. Perhaps if all world leaders had to negotiate truces, sitting on the central benches looking at the flowers, the world would be a different place (or possibly not…). The natural light is diffused through canvas, and the upper rooms are an unusual, oval shape. It is a triumphant renovation of a beautiful old building that is in perfect harmony with the art. I loved it.
The only slightly less peaceful, although definitely just as interesting, thing is Bloke with a Camcorder. Bloke with a Camcorder appears to be having an existential crisis, whereby he only exists if he tapes every moment he spends in Paris and can evidence it afterwards. He is inches off the painting, scanning the surface, and guaranteed to be right in front of the bit you are looking at. He is wearing a polo shirt and a baseball cap, and looks faintly stressed, as if he is terrified of missing something. I am fairly sure he should just buy the catalogue, as he is experiencing the painting a pixel at a time instead of all at once, but however puzzling he eventually goes away.
Bloke with a Camcorder did not appear to make it downstairs, which is a shame. He’d have liked it. This part is from a private collection gifted to the nation, and has some gorgeous works by Rousseau, some early Picasso works (the more representational stuff before he discovers cubism) and a female artist called Laurencin who I’d never heard of and liked. There are also a few nice Renoirs and a reconstruction of the collector’s house.
The museum itself is pretty accessible, but the approach to it is less friendly. Inside there are ramps, plenty of space and a lift downstairs, but outside, the sandy, gritty approach and stairs might be tricky for some people.
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