Musée de l’Orangerie

Located in the Tuileries Garden between the Seine and Place de la Concorde, not far from the Louvre, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and the Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie is another gem of the Paris art museum scene. The impressive collection of the Musée de l’Orangerie contains paintings by such art-world luminaries as Matisse, Renoir, and Cézanne, but unquestionably the crown jewel of this distinctive museum is the two-room suite housing eight sizable canvases by Monet that form an essential part of his Water Lilies cycle.

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History of the Musée de l’Orangerie

The building which houses the Musée de l’Orangerie today was constructed in 1852 at the command of Napoleon III, who wished to have a place to store and protect the citrus trees of the Tuileries Garden during the Parisian winters. When Napoleon III’s reign ended in 1870, the structure came under the control of the republic, and for the next 50 years served a mixture of public functions.

In 1918, Claude Monet agreed to donate a number of paintings to the French government in honor of the end of World War I. Over the next few years, the full nature of this gift would take shape, as Monet worked with the politician Georges Clemenceau and the architect Camille Lefèvre to create a space worthy of the series of major paintings he’d been working on for over a decade. The result was two specially designed rooms within the renovated Musée de l’Orangerie that were, down to every last detail, specifically shaped so as to perfectly display eight gargantuan canvases.

Musée de l’Orangerie Highlights

Make no mistake, the centerpiece of Musée de l’Orangerie is Claude Monet’s Water Lilies cycle. As described above, the entire museum itself was designed from beginning to end to accommodate these eight masterpieces of Impressionist art, and the highlight of any visit here is without a doubt the chance to experience Monet’s paintings in their natural setting.

The eight Water Lilies paintings collected here are arranged in two oval-shaped rooms approximating the shape of an “8” or infinity symbol. While each one of the canvases is about the same height, the length of every painting is purposefully different so as to accommodate hanging on the curved walls of the space. In total, the paintings cover over 2,000 square feet and run for roughly 330 linear feet, making them a true delight for the senses.

The rest of the Musée de l’Orangerie is no slouch either. Organized around the concept of “The Arts in Paris,” the galleries of the lower floor of the Musée de l’Orangerie are full of Impressionist and post-Impressionist pieces by such legendary artists as Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Paul Cézanne.

More to See and Do at the Musée de l’Orangerie

As fabulous as they are, there’s more to see and do at Musée de l’Orangerie than simply The Water Lilies. Keep reading to learn more about what all there is on offer at Musée de l’Orangerie.

•In addition to the impressive artworks that comprise its permanent collection, Musée de l’Orangerie occasionally organizes temporary exhibits that run for a limited time only. For more information on what might be showing when you’re scheduled to visit, check out the museum’s official website in advance of your trip.

•For a small fee, visitors may take advantage of the attraction’s well-regarded audio guide. The Musée de l’Orangerie audio guide is available in ten different languages, and provides participants with expert commentary and behind-the-scenes details on some 150 artworks featured throughout the institution. It’s a terrific resource for getting that something extra out of your visit.

•Speaking of getting something extra out of your visit, it’s worth noting that the Musée de l’Orangerie regularly hosts a variety of workshops, lectures, guided tours, live performances, and more. The nature of these special experiences can vary drastically, but if a trip to Musée de l’Orangerie is scheduled to be a central part of your Paris adventure, you’ll want to research the attraction’s calendar of events before you visit.

•The Musée de l’Orangerie bookstore features a tremendous selection of art prints, exhibition catalogs, art history titles, literature, and more. It also sells jewelry, posters, coloring books, and various accessories that make perfect gifts or souvenirs.

•Café de l’Orangerie is the museum’s in-house dining option. Attached to the attraction’s bookstore/gift shop, Café de l’Orangerie is a pleasant spot to partake in a casual meal or snack. The café’s small menu is anchored by salads, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee drinks.

Why the Musée de l’Orangerie Should Be on Your Must-See List

Anyone who’s ever expressed an interest in Monet, impressionism, or French art in general should not miss the chance to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie. Few museums in the world can claim to have delivered such a stunning fusion of artwork and interior space as the Musée de l’Orangerie has with its Water Lilies cycle and oval-shaped rooms. Regardless how times you’ve seen a picture of a Monet painting or come across a print of one of his Water Lilies paintings, these eight monumental canvases must be experienced in person at the Musée de l’Orangerie in order for the full effect to achieved.