Musee de l'Orangerie

Monet's Grand Water Lilies

Orangerie Museum, Paris

Musee de l'Orangerie Hours and Admissions

Metro: Concorde

Arrondissement: 1er

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The building of the Musee de l'Orangerie, the Orangerie Museum, was originally a winter greenhouse for the orange trees of the Tuileries Garden.

It was designed and constructed by Firmin Bourgeois and finished by Ludovico Visconti in 1852. Located in the south-west corner of the Tuileries Garden, it was glass-walled on the south side to allow as much sunshine into the interior as possible and rock-walled on the north.

Because of its prestigious location facing the Place de la Concorde it was built in a classic architectural style, not your average looking greenhouse. In the north-west corner of the Jardin des Tuileries a similarly styled structure was built, the Jeu de Paume, to house two tennis courts, now more suitably used for temporary art exhibits.

In 1918, Claude Monet wished to donate 2 of his "Les Nymphéas" (The Water Lilies) to the State, specifically in celebration of the end of World War I. He later gifted 8 grand works which measure 2 meters in height and a total length of 100 meters.

The Orangerie was renovated to fit these works by architect Camille Lefèvre with Monet very involved in the placement of his paintings. Unfortunately, the exhibit didn't open until May 1927, five months after Monet's death.

Orangerie Museum, Paris

In the late 1950s, the Musee de l'Orangerie was given the art collections of Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume. To accomodate this acquisition of over 100 new works of art, architect Olivier Lahalle added a second level above the oval rooms housing "Les Nymphéas". The Walter and Guillaume collections include many works by Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and Derain with several works by Utrillo, Cezanne and others.

Orangerie Museum, Paris

The Musee de l'Orangerie has recently undergone another rennovation lasting 6 years, re-opening in May, 2006, at an expense of over 25 million euros. During this reconstruction, an archeological discovery was made; remnants of one of the several walls that have encircled Paris, this one dating to the 1630s, built by Louis XIII. It is known as "Les Fossés Jaunes" (the yellow ditches) as the blocks of limestone have a yellowish tint.

Part of this rennovation eliminated the upper floor which housed the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collections, now displayed in the new lower level.

The oval rooms containing "Les Nymphéas" are remarkably fresh and stunning. One enters these rooms by way of a vestibule, an empty and small circular room painted in ivory white with a single, circular skylight. The effect is a washing of the eyes, removing the memory of the outdoor colors of the day, zero-setting your eyes to allow for the full-color impact of what is to come in the following rooms.

Other works by Claude Monet can be found, of course, in the wonderful Musée d'Orsay and the world's largest collection of Monet paintings is housed in the Musée Marmottan-Monet.

Orangerie Museum, Paris

Musee de l'Orangerie Hours and Admissions

The museum is open everyday (except Tuesdays, May 1 and December 25) from 9:00 a.m. to 6pm

Admissions are 7.50 euros for adults; 5.50 euros for students under 26 years of age and free on the first Sunday of the month.

For further information, visit the Musee de l'Orangerie website.

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