Travel Guide: Musée d’Orsay


By Kabita Das


Your average Paris tourist has a checklist of the top places to visit, which usually includes the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. However, the roots of Paris’ art history extend beyond just these locations. Many more museums, examples of architecture, and monuments have greatly contributed to Paris’ cultural significance. But what are they?

One of such places is the Musée d’Orsay, located across the river from the Louvre. It houses works of art by world renowned artists such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky. Though it has an impressive collection of reputable artwork, the museum receives less than half the visitors that the Louvre receives.

However, the experience is no less valuable. Upon entering through the main doors, you are confronted with subliminal architecture with a roof that rises 105 feet. The building once served as a train station before its refurbishment into a museum. Now, where Parisians once walked to their trains, visitors can walk through periods of art.

When I visited I was lucky to fall upon the temporary gallery, Au-delà des étoiles, or in English, “Beyond the Stars.” After a short line, visitors entered a closed off, dark section of the museum only slightly illuminated by the display lights.

The stars of the exhibition were Eugene Jansson and Georgia O’Keefe. Jansson’s large painting, Hornsgatan by Night, occupied its own wall. The minimal lighting highlights the textured brushwork and bold coloring. Jansson was particularly fond of bold blue colors, and in this painting, it intensifies the depth that the street creates. Georgia O’Keefe’s Black Cross with Stars and Blue also uses a bold and intense blue, with a deep, mountainous landscape. Jansson’s and O’Keefe’s particular use of blue was enlivened by their presentation at the Musée d’Orsay.

This temporary exhibit demonstrates a lively and ever changing experience of artwork from the past. The Musée d’Orsay does not simply showcase art, but creates a dynamic and meaningful experience. This context extends beyond the walls of the museum. The historical significance of the artwork that the museum contains and protects is surrounded by the young, modern art world. Go a few roads down, and you stumble upon the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where aspiring artists learn to paint and sculpt.

The Musée d’Orsay is an important part of Paris’ history and modern livelihood. If you are in Paris, after you’ve walked through the Louvre, don’t forget to cross the Seine and see the Musée d’Orsay for yourself.

GuideRachel Kubrick