Renoir to Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

The Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
Who was Paul Guillaume?
The Artists
Henri Rousseau: An Interactive Story
National Gallery of Victoria

The Musée de l'Orangerie



Claude Monet - Argenteuil

 Claude Monet
 Argenteuil, 1875
 Oil on canvas
 56.0 x 67.0cm
 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
 © Photo RMN - J.G. Berizzi


In 1922 the senior impressionist artist Claude Monet donated his panoramic cycle of paintings, the Nymphéas (Water Lilies), to the French state. He selected the Orangerie, a glass and stone building on the southern terrace of the Tuileries Gardens in central Paris, to house his ‘grandes décorations’. The Orangerie was built in 1852 during the Second Empire to replace the former Louvre orangery. With large and numerous windows, it was originally conceived as a hothouse to protect potted orange trees in winter, the trees being moved outdoors during the warmer months. The orangery subsequently became an equipment depot, lodgings for mobilised soldiers, a multi-purpose venue for sporting, musical and patriotic events and for industrial, canine, horticultural and, occasionally, art exhibitions.

The Orangerie, along with the Jeu de Paume (a symmetrical building on the opposite corner of the Tuileries Gardens), was allocated to the State Department of Fine Arts, who proposed to use it as an annexe to the Musée de Luxembourg (the ancestor of the National Museum of Modern Art). However, Monet's intervention changed this: it became instead an independent museum of art, with the Water Lilies its monumental centrepiece. The architect Camille Lefèvre was commissioned to renovate the building especially to accommodate Monet's generous gift of paintings, donated to France in celebration of the end of the First World War. Although Monet was unable to part with the Water Lilies during his lifetime, the fit-out of the Orangerie was complete long before his death in 1926. Once the paintings were installed, the building was opened to the public the following spring. While the eastern section of the building housed Monet's Water Lilies, a second series of rooms, accessible by a separate entrance, hosted major art exhibitions.

It was not until the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection was acquired some thirty years later that the Orangerie collections achieved their final form, which served to attract visitors worldwide.



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