Sun. Oct 24th, 2021


‘Virtual Museum Visits: Impressionists at Musée d’Orsay’ article was first published on Culture Tourist on March 25th 2020, and updated on September 16th 2021.

In this virtual museum visit, I’m taking you to the Impressionists collection at Musée d’Orsay. You’ll learn more about that style, meet some of the most famous Impressionist painters and see their paintings.

Musée d’Orsay is one of the most famous museums in Paris. It’s also a place where you can see one of the best collections of Impressionist paintings in the world. It showcases the style progress, from its beginnings, through the different genres Impressionist painters choose, to influence to the later generations of artists. It’s a great place to get an excellent overview of one of the first modern art styles.

Musée d’Orsay

Located in a former train station, Musée d’Orsay is a relatively new museum in Paris. It was opened in 1986, and it’s home to an amazing collection of western art created between 1848 and 1914.

Besides the fantastic collection of the Impressionist paintings at Musée d’Orsay, you can also visit a great selection of Barbizon school, the work of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. This is also where famous Edouard Manet’s ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ is located.

However, let me show you some of the beautiful work of the Impressionists at Musée d’Orsay.

Read more: The best museums in Paris

Impressionism

Impressionist painting

Collection of the Impressionists at Musée d’Orsay is a great place to learn about that style. You can see very well how it developed, who were the most important Impressionist painters and see some of their most famous paintings.

But, what was so innovative about Impressionism?

In the mid-19th century, a group of young artists came up with some new ideas about art. They didn’t want to follow the old-school academic way of painting anymore.

These first Impressionist painters started to gather together, talk about art and go on little trips in nature. They were mostly visiting a small village of Barbizon, near Fontainebleau forest, just outside Paris.

They started to paint in nature together. Painting the landscapes outside, in the open air, was something truly revolutionary at that time.

Before that time, painters would only make little sketches outside. But, they would finish their paintings in their studios. However, Impressionist painters changed that and made their paintings from scratch to the finishing touches in nature.

Read more: Impressionists in Paris

Landscapes, as an independent subject of paintings, were quite rare before that time. They would be a nice addition, a background on the picture. But rarely the main theme.

Since they were painting outside, Impressionists started noticing how the light and colours changed throughout the day. The water of the river or the grass on a meadow would have different shades in the morning, around noon and later in the afternoon. They started focusing on that light and its reflections on their paintings.

Read more: Summer in Art History

Impressionist’s subjects

On most Impressionists paintings at Musée d’Orsay, you can see landscapes and the modern society of that time. As a group, they shared the same ideas about art.

But, each Impressionist painter could develop their own style and choose whichever subject they wanted. That’s why you’ll notice that Claude Monet was focusing on landscapes and nature. Edgar Degas mostly painted dancers and scenes from cafes and restaurants. Pierre-Auguste Renoir loved painting nudes and portraits, while Paul Cézanne mostly created still lives.

Read more: 15 best museums in Europe you have to visit

Today, Impressionism is considered to be the first modern style. The reason for it lies in a few scientific discoveries and social developments that made that possible.

1/ The tube paint

One of the reasons painters could go outside and paint in the open air was the invention of tube paint. It was easy for Impressionist painters to bring their painting material with them and paint outside their studios. Many of them were using pure colours straight from the tube, so they could paint quickly. And capture all the changes in light throughout the day.

2/ Invention of the camera

The development of photography made the progress of Impressionism possible. Once the camera was invented, there was no need for realism in art anymore. It was hard to compete with the authenticity of the camera. That’s why painters started to focus on colours, light and reflections in their paintings more.

3/ Middle class & outdoor leisure activities

In the second half of the 19th century, the middle class become a more significant part of French society. They made outdoor leisure activities more popular. And Impressionist painters found a perfect subject for their paintings in them.

Claude Monet at Musée d’Orsay

The Impressionist collection at Musée d’Orsay is also a place to see many paintings by, probably the most famous among them, Claude Monet. In his paintings, he mainly focused on water and clouds. He managed to capture so well the Impressionist ideas in them.

Monet was always painting outside very quickly, leaving brushstrokes visible on his paintings. Since he was using pure colours, his paintings are vivid and bright. To capture the southern light, Monet, in his own words, dreamed about:

A palette of diamonds and precious stones.

A visit to Impressionists in Musée d’Orsay is an excellent opportunity to see some of the most amazing paintings created by those painters. Hope this virtual museum visit will help you feel at least a bit of its atmosphere.

Would you like to read some of my other virtual museum visits? Check them out on the links below:

Are you planning to visit Musée d’Orsay? My tip is to get your ticket online to avoid queueing in front of the museum for hours.

Get your online ticket here.

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