Paris Adventures Pt. 4 (Cont.): Le Musée de L’Orangerie

To sum up my Musée de L’Orangerie experience:

  1. Confusion
  2. Awe.

L’Orangerie is primarily a museum showcasing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, so the paintings were very different from most of what I saw at le Musée D’Orsay.  (Note: Just like le Musée D’Orsay, there were no photos allowed.  I recorded the names of paintings and am searching them up online!  There must be a lot of rulebreakers in museums.)

I began the tour by going downstairs and looking at some of the smaller paintings first.  I saw works from Chaïm Soutine (who is obsessed with dead animals), Marie Laurencin (who hung out with Picasso), and a few from Picasso himself (he has his own separate museum in Paris), most of which made me very confused.

There was Chaïm Soutine, who loved making his scenes look completely out of proportion as well as painting about morbid subjects like dead animals.  My guess is it probably had something to do with WWI.

Bouef et Tête de Veau – Chaïm Soutine, 1923

Le Dindon – Chaïm Soutine, 1925

Dindon et Tomates – Chaïm Soutine, 1923-1924

All of which, of course, put me in a bright and cheery mood!!! (I hope the sarcasm is translating)

Next there was Marie Laurencin, who began as a porcelain painter before she met  Picasso and Apollinaire and got introduced to the Cubists.  She loved painting women and animals, and she put them together in her works that I find beautiful, but incomprehensible… (clearly not an art buff here).

Les Biches – Marie Laurencin, 1923

Danseuses Espagnoles – Marie Laurencin, 1920-1921

I also saw a couple of works from  Pablo Picasso, the man himself, who has his own museum in Paris.  His paintings were strange: in one painting he would paint like a cubist, where everything was out of proportion.  For example, there would be this:

Grand Nature Morte – Pablo Picasso, 1917-1918

Clearly cubism, and the painting right next to it there was this:

Femme au Chapeau Blanc – Pablo Picasso, 1920-1921

which kind of threw me off.  In any case, I think Cubism looks really cool.  There was also some Henri Matisse in the museum, in the very back corner, but I forgot to write down the names of what I thought was interesting.  He painted a lot of naked women.

Those were some of the things that stood out more to me in the basement museum.  There were some slightly more “normal-looking” paintings from Maurice Utrillo (a Monmartre artist who painted to avoid alcoholism) and Henri “Le Douanier” Rousseau (a post-impressionist painter), but I forgot to note down names of their works.  Utrillo had a couple of paintings of churches in the Montmartre area, and Rousseau painted in a style that reminded me of Chinese farmer paintings.

I saved the best for last: Monet’s Les Nymphéas, or Water Lillies, what he spent the last 30 years of his life painting in his garden in Giverny  (there are some 250 of these – Le Musée de l’Orangerie has 8).

I think in my last post, I said that I preferred Salon painting to impressionism.

Well, I take that back.  Monet’s Nymphéas were magnificent.  There were two oval-shaped rooms, each filled with four enormous Water Lily paintings, and I must have spent at least half an hour in each just soaking it all in.  I think it’s the first time I felt so strongly about art–usually for me it’s just “oh this looks pretty cool” or “this confused me” or “hey I understood that reference!” but this time I actually felt moved – it’s hard to explain.  Up close, the paintings didn’t make much sense to me.  It looked like a splash of paint here and another there, but I took a step back and was amazed.

I just stood there in a daze, awed by the incredible works of art that made me feel like I was actually in nature, in his garden looking at the water lilies during different times of the day.  Heck, I’m still kind of in a daze even though it was almost 9 hours ago.  I’ve never felt such warmth from looking at a painting.  The Impressionists hit the nail right on the head with what they were trying to do.

By the way, it’s decided: in the spring I’m going to make a day trip to Monet’s gardens in Giverny.  It’s only a 45-minute train ride away.

Compared to le Musée d’Orsay, l’Orangerie is a tiny museum, but I enjoyed myself much more today.  Maybe it was the weather, maybe I got a better night’s sleep.

But it was probably those darn water lilies.


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