The Musee D'Orsay (affectionately known as MO) was an interesting one. We gained access readily as we had an express entry ticket prepurchased through the Hotel. Well worth the €3 excess we jumped the queue saving ourselves about an hour.
Things came unstuck soon thereafter though as signage suggested no backpacks were allowed. Seeing the queue for the cloaking facilities I asked the guy on the door about photographs and he told me no cameras. So, we packed away the cameras and I did battle with the queue for the cloakroom. Bag finally deposited we entered the gallery proper to find that every second person carried a backpack and those who didn't not only carried a camera, but were using it to document their visit. We were both pretty peeved at the inconsistent application of rules....one of us more than the other.
The reason I selected MO as my museum f choice, knowing that I might not get to every one Paris has to offer is that it is the museum of choice for Impressionist and Post Impressionist Collections. The Louvre seems to hold the earlier works, the Musee D'Orsay these others. Fine by me. We studied a lot of these artists when I did Fine Arts many years ago, so poor Frank got a lesson in Impressionist art history.
Highlights for me were seeing so many Renoir's in real life. Have loved his work since I was a little girl. His Dance at La Moulin de la Galette being particularly beautiful. Very large it is quite evocative of what I imagine it was like to live in those times. Add in a couple of lovely Monet's Poppies, four works from his Rouen Cathedral series and a Haystack and I was pretty happy. As for seeing Blue Waterlilies and the Japanese Bridge in the garden at Giverny I was smitten. To see these works in the flesh, knowing that on Saturday I will be standing on the ground in Giverny is awe inspiring. Remember that I studied fine art aided only by a slide projector. Seeing works transformed to the same size, enlarged onto a screen is nothing compared to standing before them. The subtlety of brush strokes, balancing of color palette and nuances of light transform the most mundane subject matter.
One artist whose work I had totally underestimated until I saw it for myself was Vincent Van Gogh. Yes, I have studied a little of his work, know some elements of his life, and have read his letters to his brother Theo, but nothing prepared me for the raw simplicity of his work. The Musee D'Orsay has a good collection providing an overview of his work. Favorite for me surprisingly was Starry Night. The sky is iridescent and literally glows. The reproduction in the catalogue does nothing to provide insight into the beauty of the original. I also loved seeing the bedroom of the artist in Arles - one of a series he did of this simple little room. Another work I enjoyed seeing was The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise, view of the Chevet. Not the subject matter so much as the detailing of the paint and how Vincent captured the turmoil of the sky.
The overall Musee D'Orsay experience was a frustrating one though. The space itself was overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Previously a train station, the building was interesting, but the layout of galleries was not intuitive and their was little flow between spaces. It invested me to see that there was very little English text to facilitate dialogue between nonFrench speaking visitors and the art. Each major shift of focus had one panel explaining the art movement, but didactics for individual artworks was French only.
The other confusing element was the retail focus. While their were two little concession stands throughout the building selling books, post cards and small art based trinkets, once you left the gallery spaces and entered what appeared to be the main retail outlet it was a bookshop only. You could not purchase the art posters, cards, mugs etc that had been available previously. To make matters worse, you were not allowed to renter the gallery space, having exited the main area. I consider myself lucky that the little guide book I wanted to purchase was also available in the book shop. Frank spotted it. Otherwise I would have no reminder of my visit.