The Museum is housed in a converted train station. Here is the old clock. The museum is dedicated to art from the 1880s until the 1950's. Most of the impressionist work in Paris is in this museum on the left bank.
The Musee D'Orsay is in a grand old building that used to be a train station, built in the very late years of the 19th century. It's a beautiful building overlooking the Seine on the Left Bank and is one of the more popular art galleries in Paris. You will find a very good collection of the Impressionists here, one of the main draws. The collections generally date from the mid 19th century to the First World War era.
From the second world war until the mid 1970s, after the train station closed, the building was used for a variety of purposes. It closed in 1973 and Restoration and conversion to a museum began a few years later, opening in 1986. IT's definitely one of the stars in the Paris art world, especially if you like the Impressionists.
There is a Metro station for the Musee D'Orsay and one a few blocks away, the Solferino station. It is closed on Mondays, open late on Thursdays and otherwise closes at 6 p.m. It's a very busy museum so it might be wise to pre-buy your tickets. According to the website, Wednesdays, Thursday evenings and Fridays tend to be a bit less busy. It costs 12 euros with discount price of 9 euros for seniors, groups and for Thursday evening opening hours or after 4:30 every day. It's free on the first Sunday of the month (expect crowds), for those under 18, for those 18 - 25 if citizens , disabled and a carer, and of course if you have a museum pass.
There are escalators and lifts if you have mobility issues.
It's a beautiful museum, with lots of light and open space. The Impressionist art is superb and not to be missed if possible. You can also buy a combined ticket with the Orangerie museum where there is a wonderful collection of Monet's Water Lilies.
2016: updating photography and bag rules.
Where French artists are concerned, this collection sort of picks up where the Louvre leaves off. Once the site of the Palais d'Orsay, which burned in the Paris Commune of 1871, this lovely, airy Beaux-Arts structure was a rail station and hotel constructed for the Universal Exhibition of 1900; just like the Grand and Petite Palais. It became obsolete in 1930's as its platforms were too short for longer, electrified trains, and served various other purposes until finally closing in the 1970's. Designation as a Historical Monument saved this priceless treasure from the wrecking ball and, after a renovation, the museum opened in 1986.
Here you'll find paintings, sculpture and other decorative pieces from 1848-1915 by Delacroix, Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, Renoir, Rodin and Corot, among many others. Because of its smaller, less-intimidating size, I've heard people say that they enjoyed this one more than the mighty Louvre.
The best way to obtain current ticket prices, hours, combined museum tickets and such is to visit the website:
Be Aware: The museum is closed on Mondays but open into the evenings on Thursdays
Photography or video filming without flash or tripods is allowed for personal use
Please turn your cell phone off upon entry
Eating and drinking in the galleries is not allowed (there is a cafe on the lower level.)
Packpacks and suitcases are not allowed and cannot be checked
The d'Orsay is included in the Paris Museum Pass, and the short line for ticket/pass-holders was on the right side (entrance C) as you face the front of the building. Look for a sign reading "billet coupe-file" or similar.
Your ticket is also good for reduced entry at the Gustave Moreau museum and Palais Garnier (see website)
Last visit May 2016
The Musee d'Orsay is my favorite art museum in Paris, perhaps even in the world as it features my favorite period for art, impressionism, the collection covers the years between 1848 and 1914 and I believe it is the best impressionist art collection in the world. I think I have visited on every one of my trips to Paris, c'est magnifique!
The building itself was built as a train station for the 1900 World's Fair and was opened as the Musee d' Orsay in 1986.
The line for the museum is usually long, I kissed my museum pass as we strolled up to the special entrance and waltzed right in. Worth the price just for that!
I usually walk to the opposite end of the museum from the entrance and take the escalators straight up to the 5th level to the impressionist and post-impressionist collection including many works by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas and all of the other famous impressionist painters. You'll also find many of these same artisits on the ground floor in the pre-impressionist collection.
opening hours 9:30am-6pm, Thursday until 9:45pm
included on museum pass (make sure to go to special entrance C to skip the ticket queue), discount rate after 6pm on Thursday, 4:15pm other days
In August 2013 I had the privilege of touring the Orsay Museum with VT member breughel (Eddy). First we had a great lunch together at the ornate museum restaurant on the second floor and then he showed me some of his favorite paintings in nearly all the departments of the museum.
Unfortunately the Orsay Museum no longer allows photography in the exhibition halls, so I can’t show you any of the paintings he showed me, but most of them can be seen on the museum’s website. A lot of them can also be seen on the many Orsay tips that Eddy (breughel) has made here on VirtualTourist. He made most of these before 2010, when photography at the Orsay was still allowed:
My favourite museum
Highlights to visit in a few hours
RENOIR - The dances
"Manet, inventeur du Moderne" exhibition
An Impressionist Triptych
Special exhibition "L'IMPRESSIONNISME ET LA MODE"
Musée d'Orsay - Monet "La pie - The magpie"
Caillebotte, patron of arts and painter
"SCANDALOUS NUDES" at ORSAY!
Missing highlights - Oeuvres manquantes
Vincent Van Gogh at Orsay
Van Gogh at Musée d'Orsay
TRANSFORMATIONS in 2010 -2011 at Orsay
The renovated Musée d'Orsay
Practical Info at renovated Orsay
Update 2015: Photography was forbidden inside the Musée d'Orsay for several years, but now it is allowed again as long as you don’t use a flash, or tripod or selfie-stick. They were practically forced to change the rules by the Ministry of Culture, which is trying to set up uniform regulations for photography in all French museums.
While we were touring the Orsay museum in 2013, Eddy was particularly pleased to find that all the museum’s Van Goth paintings had returned from their recent travels: All Van Gogh's on display.
Upstairs in the Impressionist gallery on the 5th floor, he especially pointed out some of his favorite paintings by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), whose works I have somehow never particularly noticed up to now.
This was my first visit to the Orsay Museum since it was renovated and rearranged from 2009 to 2011. The Impressionists (Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley...) are still on the 5th floor in a renovated gallery under the glass canopy, but the Post-Impressionists (Van Gogh, Gauguin, the school of Pont-Aven, Cross, Seurat, the Douanier Rousseau) are now on the middle level, on the side of the Rue de Lille, in rooms that have also been renovated. This new arrangement was intended to “ensure a better distribution of visitors in the museum” instead of having all the most popular works in the same gallery.
My first photo on this tip shows the outside of the Orsay Museum in the summer of 2013, with the new Emmarchement leading down to the river. (This is a different view that I have not posted up to now.)
Second photo: A lady riding a Vélib’ bike at the Orsay Museum in 2013, near the big Vélib’ station 7007 on rue de Lille.
Third photo: The Orsay Museum as I saw it from the tourist boat in 2012.
Fourth photo: A collage of photos from my first Orsay tip in 2008, when photography was still allowed in the museum.
Fifth photo: My advance ticket to the Orsay Museum, which allowed me to use the priority entrance (gate C) with hardly any waiting time. Unlike the Louvre, the Orsay Museum offers tickets with a print-at-home option through the fnac website, so you can print out your ticket yourself and you don’t have to pick it up at one of the fnac stores.
Next review from September 2013: The Richelieu Wing of the Louvre
This museum was a must see. We took the small group tour. By going with a guide it allowed us to see the major attractions and not miss the frequently viewed art exhibits. After the small group tour we went to the special art exhibit on prostitution in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
We took the metro to and from the museum. Our hotel was in the financial district.
Set in an old railway station the whole of artistic creation from 1848 to 1914 including ofcourse the impressionist masterpieces of the greatest artists such as Monet, Degas, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Pissarro, Rodin.
I particulary enjoyed all the part dedicated to Tolouse Latrec, this is the museum that hostes the painting Breakfast on the grass of Manet.
Open 9.30-18 Closed on Monday
Room number 1 in the Musée d'Orsay, the first room on the right on the ground floor, is called Ingres et l'Ingrisme. As soon as you enter you are confronted with one of his most famous paintings, La Source (The Spring).
I learned from the museum's website that Ingres started this picture in 1820, but then put it aside and didn't finish it until 1856. Even then he got two of his students to fill in the background, which seems to have been common practice in those days.
This painting was shown at several exhibitions in the 1850s and 60s, and was widely discussed as a synthesis of the real and the ideal. Is the nude figure a statue or a real person, or both?
In 1857 the painting was bought by Count Charles-Marie Tanneguy Duchâtel for 25000 francs. In his home the painting was "surrounded by large plants and aquatic flowers so that the nymph of the spring looked even more like a real person."
If Ingres were alive today I think he would paint pictures of girls taking photos with their digital cameras. (Or riding bicycles or talking on their cell phones.)
Update 2015: Photography was forbidden inside the Musée d'Orsay for several years, but now it is allowed again as long as you don’t use a flash, or tripod or selfie-stick. They were practically forced to change the rules by the Ministry of Culture, which is trying to set up uniform regulations for photography in all French museums. Photography was still allowed when I took these photos in 2008. So my photos are legal, and so are the ones the girls are taking of La Source by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Second photo: On the top floor of the Musée d'Orsay is the impressionist collection, with astounding numbers of famous and familiar paintings. In room 32 alone there are 42 paintings by Renoir, Monet, Pissarro and Sisley. The one in the photo is Le bassin d'Argenteuil by Claude Monet (1840-1926).
Third photo: Another famous painting in the same room, also by Monet: one of the eleven pictures that he painted of La gare Saint-Lazare, one of the six big terminus railroad stations in Paris.
Fourth photo: The Musée d'Orsay also used to be a railroad station, as you can see from this photo that I took from the top of the Tour Seine, the Seine Tower at the back end of the museum.
Musee d'Orsay is one of my favorite museums here in Paris. It is located in the former Gare d'Orsay train station which was designed by Victor Lalous in 1900 for the Universal Exposition. The museum isn't overwhelming as the Louvre and you can easily visit all the major wings of the museum in just one visit.
The museum is devoted to mostly works of art produced between 1848 and 1914. There are many beautiful paintings, sculptures, pastels, furniture and art objects from some of the most famous artists of these times like Degas, Renoir, Ache, Latour, Daumir, Courbet, Manet, Gauguin, Pissaro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Klimt Corot, Cezzane and Van Gogh!
Check out my travelogue for pics of the works found inside d'Orsay.
Lots of reasons to visit de Orsay. It's a great building. An historic train station. The art is some of the most unique. We went for the Monet collection. We had been up to the coast and visited his gardens and then to Etret, where he spend time painting. Also a superb collection of Van Gogh.
The museum of Orsay shows some paintings of nudes which in their time (around 1860) where found scandalous.
The art amateur will notice that this decennia of 1860 produced academic nudes such as "Naissance de Vénus" (1863) of Alexandre Cabanel, impressionist nudes like "Déjeuner sur l'herbe" (1863) and "Olympia" (1863) from Edouard Manet as well as realistic nudes such as "Femme nue avec chien" (1862) and "l'Origine du Monde" (1866) from Gustave Courbet.
As for "l'Origine du Monde" of Courbet, acquired in 1995, I notice that today this provocating nudity, an almost anatomical description of the female organs, still arouses emotion. The first years that she was exhibited at Orsay a special security guard was posted in the room!
Now that the Courbet's nude "L'Origine du Monde" is travelling all over the world there is no reason for me not to publish the photo in this review. (She is prohibited on Facebook but we know that FB is not really a reference for cultural matters!).
About the head of the model for the Courbet's painting "L'Origine du Monde" hereafter the statement of the Musée d'Orsay (Le Figaro 8/02/2013):
Des hypothèses fantaisistes ont récemment été développés autour de L'Origine du monde de Gustave Courbet conservée au musée d'Orsay. Celui-ci souhaite rappeler certains faits bien connus des historiens de l'art. L'Origine du monde est une composition achevée et en aucun cas le fragment d'un œuvre plus grande. Longtemps entourée de secrets y compris dans ses dispositifs de présentation.
Certaines zones d'ombre subsistent dans son historique. Une certitude cependant, confirmée par tous les témoignages du XIXe siècle: le tableau visible chez Khalil-Bey, son premier propriétaire et probable commanditaire, était bien ‘une femme nue sans pieds et sans tête. À cette description de l'œuvre par Gambetta répond celle de Maxime Ducamp qui mentionne en 1878 que Courbet n'avait pas représenté «le cou et la tête» de ce «portait de femme bien difficile à décrire».*
Translation (software + my correction):
Fanciful hypotheses have recently been developed around L'Origine du Monde by Gustave Courbet at the Musée d'Orsay. We would recall some well-known facts of art historians. The Origin of the World is a complete composition and not a fragment of a larger work …
Some gray areas remain in its history. Certainty, however, confirmed by all accounts of the nineteenth century in the painting visible at Khalil Bey, the first owner and probable sponsor, was indeed a naked woman without legs and without a head. In this description of the work by Gambetta that meets the one of Maxime Ducamp in 1878 which mentions that Courbet had not represented the "head and neck" of this "woman portrait was very difficult to describe."
Les nus à scandale d'Orsay!
Le musée d'Orsay comporte quelques tableaux de nus qui ont défrayé la chronique en leur temps (±1860) et dont l'un "l'Origine du Monde" (1866) de Gustave Courbet suscite encore des remous.
Cette même décennie 1860 produisit à la fois des nus aussi académiques que la "Naissance de Vénus" (1863) du néo-classique Alexandre Cabanel, des nus d'inspiration impressionniste comme "Déjeuner sur l'herbe" (1863) et "Olympia" (1863) d' Edouard Manet ainsi que des nus réalistes comme la "Femme nue avec chien" (1862) et "l'Origine du Monde" (1866) de Gustave Courbet.
Les deux nus de Manet, surtout le "Déjeuner sur l'herbe", déchaînèrent les sarcasmes et critiques au Salon de 1863. J'avoue que le contraste entre les deux messieurs en redingote et la dame nue m'interpellent. Qu'allait-elle faire nue dans la forêt; à moins qu'elle ne se soit baignée dans l'étang à l'arrière plan?
Quant à "l'Origine du Monde" de Courbet, acquis en 1995 je constate qu'aujourd'hui encore cette nudité crue, provocante, une description presque anatomique du sexe féminin, suscite de l'émotion: les messieurs la photographient, leur compagne se tient en retrait.
Paris' Musée d'Orsay occupies what was once the Gare d'Orsay, a train station built from 1898 to 1900. The station was used for long-distance trains until 1939, then later was used mainly for shorter regional trains. After World War II, the building was converted from a station into a mail center and was used a movie set. Approved to be destroyed in 1970, the demolition was disapproved and the station was proposed to be converted into a museum. Musée d'Orsay opened in 1986, and it houses French art completed from 1848 to 1915, including works by Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and other French greats.