Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon
I liked this sign at the entrance to the Fine Arts Museum, listing twenty things you ARE allowed to do in the museum, intermingled with only eight things (crossed out) that you are NOT allowed to do. So over twice as many things are allowed than not allowed.
You ARE allowed to: look, discuss, observe, swap opinions, discover, laugh, be amazed, detest, breathe, rest, dream, reflect, relish, wonder, take photos (but not with a flash), be indignant, walk around, take your time, be moved, etc.
But these things are crossed out, so you are not allowed to do them: telephone, eat, run, smoke, yell, touch, use a flash, drink.
>>back to my first “Things to Do” tip
>>back to my Lyon intro page
The Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux Arts) is located in a former Benedictine abbey dating from the 17th century. In the center (first photo) there is a pleasant sculpture garden with a cloister running around it.
The museum was founded in 1803 with a first consignment of 110 paintings sent by the Louvre in Paris. Now, more than two hundred years later, Lyon's Museum of Fine Arts has "over 8,000 antiquities, 3,000 decorative objects, 40,000 coins and medals, 2,500 paintings, 8,000 works on paper and 1,300 sculptures" which are "preserved, studied and, in large measure, presented to the public."
The building was entirely renovated between 1990 and 1998.
Second photo: Side entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts, on the Rue du Président Edouard Herriot.
Since I had just been to the Lumière Museum the day before and learned a few things about the early days of photography, I was pleased to see this painting by Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929) called Une Noce chez le photographe, which literally means "A Wedding at the Photographer's", though I assume they actually got married at the church and/or town hall.
The painting is from the year 1879, which was just a few years before the Lumière brothers began mass-producing photographic dry-plates at their factory in Lyon. So photography at that time was still a complicated process that could only be done by a few skillful experts.
According to the audio-guide in the Fine Arts Museum, the painter's intention was to show that his paintings could be at least as detailed and realistic as any photograph, which was quite true, especially since photos in those days were all in black-and-white and the painting was in color. (This didn't change until a quarter century later, when the Lumière brothers patented their Autochrome color transparency system in 1903 and started marketing it in 1907.)
Second photo: I'm something of a sucker for large-scale paintings, so I was duly impressed by "The Defeat of the Cimbres and the Teutons by Marius", painted in 1853 by François-Joseph Heim (1787-1865). The Cimbres and the Teutons were Germanic tribes who had invaded Gaul and inflicted huge losses on the Roman armies before finally being defeated by the Roman consul Caius Marius in the years 102 and 101 B.C.
Third photo: Looking at paintings in the Fine Arts Museum.
Fourth photo: The Fine Arts Museum also has a section devoted to furniture and applied arts from various periods, including this desk and chair by Hector Guimard (1867-1942), who is best known for designing the ornate metal entrances for the Paris Métro stations in the early twentieth century. The painting of a nude woman above the desk is by Guimard's wife, the American painter Adeline Oppenheim-Guimard (1872-1962).
Fifth photo: This painting by Henri Matisse from the year 1946 is called "Young Woman in White, with Red background (Reclining Model, White Dress)" – not exactly a catchy title, but accurate. This painting is on permanent loan from the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris.
The finest sculpture in the Musee is out in the garden by Rodin (shown in an earlier Tip). There are others by him inside; one is the bust of Puvis de Chavannes, whose paintings stand above the main hall. In the gallery there is also a fine bust of that same artist done by Rodin. Also prominently shown are a marble long bust and a terra-cotta one of the famous beauty Juliette Recamier done by the local sculptor Joseph Chinard (1756-1813) who was a professor at the Ecole in Paris in his later years. The finest work in this section is a bust by Mino da Fiesole of about 1400. Finally there is rare female Kouros from Greece from about 550 BC.
Sculpture, Objets d'Art, including furniture by Hector Guimard and Classical Art from Egyptian times onward are in different sections of the very large museum. The paintings since 1800 are of very high quality and cover most of the better artists with strong works.
The museum occupies the entire south side of the Pl. des Terreaux., originally known as the Palais St.-Pierre, whose center is an extensive garden surrounded by the cloister of the Abbey of St. Peter containing the sections of the museum. In the green space are several statues and pools. Near the center is Rodin's Adam (or L'ombre) and nearby is Democritus by Delhomme and other statues. Inside, the main stairs lead up to several works by Puvis de Chavannes, while pride of place is an Ascension by Perugino, a gift from Pope Pius VII.
It is the largest after Louvre museum in France. The collection is very impressive. Along with expected paintings and sculptures you will find here a room with paintings of Lyon masters of floral painting. If you are familiar with Dutch and Flemish painting techniques you will recognize it in Lyon masters’ works and probably will be surprised by their skills.
Allow several hours for this museum visit. Include time for the Terreaux Square before or after your visit. There is a café on the terrace of the museum. If the weather is nice, make a brake and have some coffee over there.
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Visit the Musée de Beaux Arts
The Musuem of Fine arts in Lyon is no doubt, one of the best musuems in
France. Great for those who enjoy European arts.
There are a goodly number of paintings at the Fine Arts Gallery in Lyon that come from the 16C and earlier, as well as several from the 17C and 18C, all of high quality.