This is one of my new favorite museums in Paris. A few weeks ago, my parents came to town to visit. A professor (the same one who advised me about the Sainte-Chapelle) had recommended this museum to me a couple of years ago, and I always remembered it. Both of my parents are big fans of impressionism in general and Monet in particular (as am I), so we went to this small gem of a museum together.
First, the museum is not in the center of Paris. It’s way out in the fancy-schmancy 16th arrondissement. I’ve been mostly in the center of Paris for the last several months, where the sidewalks are as tiny as the apartments bumping up against them and there is no grass. Everything feels very compact and squished and slightly dirty. We hopped on the RER C to go to the museum (it’s not too far, only about a 10 minute ride), and as soon as we stepped out into the 16th arrondissement, I felt like I had stepped out of the center of the city into a huge clean park. There are trees and grass and the sidewalks are wide and the buildings are gorgeous and clean and sturdy-looking. It was a nice change of scenery. We walked about 7 minutes to get from the metro to the museum, and it was lovely, even in winter.
The museum was started in the end of the 19th century with a collection of paintings, furniture, Renaissance sheet music, illuminated manuscripts, etc. Frankly, the original collection is not that great, and it’s all upstairs. But in 1966, Claude Monet’s second son died in a car crash and left a large bequest of his father’s work to the Académie that owns the museum. The museum has over 130 of Monet’s paintings, watercolors, pastels, and drawings. Other impressionist work is featured there as well. If you like impressionism, you must see this museum. Its collection is impressive. They even have Monet’s palette, which I thought was cool. You could also see the dialogue between the impressionists in their paintings of one another and their paintings that they made for each other. It felt like a very personal glimpse into the impressionist movement.
They have an entire hall dedicated to Monet’s paintings. They have several waterlilies, and many other works. They have some famous paintings and some less famous but no less beautiful paintings. My parents and I spent a lot of time looking at Monet’s huge paintings up close, then stepping back and admiring how the blobs of color come together to form a clear picture. Going to museums with my dad is always fun because he’s an artist at heart and always has the most interesting explanations of techniques they used to make certain effects, or he’ll notice something you never would have seen if he hadn’t pointed it out.
I really enjoyed the overall atmosphere of the museum. It is in a mansion, and seeing it felt a lot like wandering through a really rich person’s house. It still has all of the decorations you’d find in a rich art collector’s house (in my imagination, anyway).
Downstairs they have a temporary exhibit, and when we went it was a neo-impressionism exhibit. It was interesting to get to see examples from the development of impressionism upstairs, and then go downstairs and see where things went after that. But I personally prefer impressionist paintings.
If you like impressionist art, of course go see the Musée d’Orsay (watch for an upcoming post about that). But this museum should be a definite second on your list.