Guide Tour of Marmottan Monet Museum, Paris, France

The Marmottan Monet Museum, located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris near the Ranelagh garden, is a fine arts museum located in Paris. In particular, it presents a collection of works of art and paintings from the First Empire, as well as works by impressionist painters, including the largest collection in the world of works by Claude Monet.

Musée Marmottan Monet features over three hundred Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, including his 1872 Impression, Sunrise. Marmottan Museum’s fame is the result of a donation in 1966 by Michel Monet, Claude’s second son and only heir.

The Musée Marmottan Monet opened its spaces to Impressionism in 1940, when it became home to Monet’s iconic Impression, Sunrise. This painting, which has gone down in history for inspiring the name of the movement, was the foundation stone of the Museum’s Impressionist collections.

In 1966 came another major event in the life of the collections: the museum became the universal legatee of Claude Monet via his son Michel Monet. It thus inherited both the house in Giverny and the works that had remained in the family: over a hundred canvases retracing the career of the leading figure of Impressionism. In addition to masterpieces from the artist’s youth and maturity (The Train in the Snow. The Locomotive; Taking a Walk in Argenteuil; The Pont de l’Europe, Gare Saint-Lazare; The Houses of Parliament London, Reflections on the Thames, etc.) the ensemble is notable for the monumental canvases representing the water lilies and garden at Giverny.

Never shown during the artist’s lifetime, these works were exhibited for the first time when they entered the Museum. The only institution to hold the last paintings of The Japanese Bridge and The House Seen from the Rose Garden, the Musée Marmottan Monet, home of the world’s leading collection of works by Monet, offers a unique experience of his art in terms of both quantity and rarity.

The building
Located in the hamlet of Passy, the Château de la Muette was sold off in lots by the revolutionary government in 1790. Part of its former grounds were now occupied by the Ranelagh, a pleasure garden named after the Irish lord who had set this fashion in London. When Passy was absorbed into Paris in 1860, the land became municipal property and Baron Haussmann ordered that it be transformed into a garden, keeping the name Ranelagh. In the second half of the 19th century, the land giving onto this sixhectare park was prized by a wealthy clientele wishing to build mansions there.

Originally a hunting lodge for the Duke of Valmy, the house at the edge of the Bois de Boulogne was purchased by Jules Marmottan in 1882 who later left it to his son Paul Marmottan. Marmottan moved into the lodge and, with an interest in the Napoleonic era, he expanded his father’s collection of paintings, furniture and bronzes. Marmottan bequeathed his home and collection, as well as his library, the Bibliothèque Marmottan in Boulogne, to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The Académie opened up the house and collection as the Museum Marmottan in 1934.

The museum originated in the gift by art historian Paul Marmottan of his private mansion and its Renaissance and Napoleonic era collections to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1932.

Born in Valenciennes on December 26, 1829, Jules Marmottan came from a family in Le Quesnoy, northern France. As an art lover, Marmottan took advice from Antoine Brasseur, a dealer who is remembered for donating sixty-four Old Master paintings and a sizeable collection of ceramics to the art museum in his home town of Lille. Through him, Marmottan acquired some forty paintings by pre-Renaissance artists from Italy, Flanders, and Germany, including an outstanding and rare Descent from the Cross by Hans Muelich. Polychrome wooden statuettes from Mechelen and tapestries of the lives of the saints Susanna and Alexander also illustrated his taste for medieval and Renaissance art. Acquired from a dealer long based in Cologne by an art lover who divided his life between Valenciennes and Bordeaux, these works would nevertheless end up decorating the Marmottan residence in Paris.

His son, Paul Marmottan, a man of independent means, he spent his time studying history and the art of the 1789–1830 period. He became a prolific author and a recognized specialist in the Consulate and Empire periods, helping to rehabilitate its often overlooked art. His research as a historian informed his acquisitions as an art lover working to emulate his father and build up his own collection.

Paul Marmottan assembled his first acquisitions in the pavilion, which building he redecorated in the Empire style throughout. There he displayed effigies of members of the emperor’s family in Carrara marble. The carefully chosen furniture came, notably, from the Tuileries Palace, one of Napoleon’s residences, and the Palazzo Reale di Portici in Naples, which had been furnished for Napoleon’s sister, Caroline, the wife of Prince Murat.

Marmottan also assembled a rare and representative collection of the still classical “petits maîtres” of the post-Revolutionary decades, whose landscapes were the subject of his book L’École française de peinture (1789–1830), published in 1886. This authoritative ensemble was hung in the pavilion at the turn of the 20th century. Among other canvases, landscapes by Jean Victor Bertin (p. 66), Étienne Joseph Bouhot, Louis Gauffier, Adolphe Eugène Gabriel Roehn, and Jacques François Joseph Swebach (known as Swebach-Desfontaines) were assembled around his outstanding pieces: six representations of imperial residences painted in around 1810 by Jean Joseph Xavier Bidauld in collaboration with Carle Vernet and Louis Léopold Boilly.

Marmottan was a Boilly specialist and had written a landmark monograph on this painter. Some thirty portraits by the artist have always hung in the main house, and it is surely no coincidence that his name should have been given to the street laid perpendicular to Avenue Raphaël, alongside the collector’s townhouse, in 1913.

Around 1910, Paul Marmottan acquired adjoining land in order to build an extension of his home. Also at this time, he modified the part of the townhouse showing his father’s collection in order to present his own acquisitions as well. He redesigned several salons in the main house, the bedroom on the second floor, the current dining room, and the two round salons on the first floor are among the spaces that were transformed. The décor was designed by Marmottan himself, author of an authoritative volume on Le Style Empire.

The rotunda through which visitors now enter the museum served as a vestibule at the time and was decorated in the Empire style with niches and marble sculptures. The artisan made a series of pilasters with fluted bases, ionic columns and a sculpted frieze of griffons and garlands in stucco with partial gilding. In each of these salons, and in the current dining room, special care was taken over the doors, these being decorated with antique dancers and crowned with elegant stucco figures in Greek drapes standing out against solid colored grounds. To furnish these spacious rooms, Paul Marmottan made a number of significant acquisitions, foremost among which was a bed that once belonged to Napoleon I, the Chandelier with Musicians, the desk bearing the stamp of Pierre Antoine Bellangé, the monumental Portrait of the Duchess of Feltre and Her Children, and a remarkable “geographic clock” in Sèvres porcelain.

Paul Marmottan bequeathed his home to a cultural institution in order to preserve it and open it to the public, a task he entrusted to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which inherited the building and its collections at his death on March 15, 1932. The Académie des Beaux-Arts, as it has been known since 1803, was founded in 1648 as the Académie Royale de Peinture to champion French art. Responsible for teaching and for organizing the Salon, it was devoted to preserving the national artistic tradition. The Paul Marmottan bequest extended its mission by making it the guardian of a significant part of the French heritage.

As one of the foundations of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the Musée Marmottan opened to the public on June 21, 1934. In keeping with its founder’s wishes, the small or ancillary rooms (kitchens, bathrooms, etc.) disappeared in order to create bigger spaces and facilitate visitor circulation. Apart from this physical adaptation, other changes awaited the museum as the aura of the Académie des Beaux-Arts attracted new donations and bequests. The museum enriched its collections and opened a new chapter in its history.

The art of the second half of the 19th century entered the Musée Marmottan in 1938. The drawings donated by the son of William Adolphe Bouguereau. Between 1940 and 1947, Victorine made several gifts by hand to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. These Asian objets d’art and paintings and drawings both ancient and modern illustrated the doctor’s eclectic tastes. And while The Drinker by Frans Hals and The Pipe Smoker by Dirck van Baburen were very much at home in Paul Marmottan’s former residence, the entrance of Impression, Sunrise along with ten other Impressionist canvases marked a major turning point.

At a time when Doctor de Bellio was making a name for himself as one of the first supporters of Claude Monet and his friends, Paul Marmottan and the Académie des Beaux-Arts were fighting them. With the entrance into the museum of those eleven Impressionist canvases in 1940, the Académie was at last recognizing the value of Impressionism. Moreover, in doing so it had become the owner and guardian of the work that gave the group its name. The arrival of canvases by Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Armand Guillaumin was duly celebrated. They formed the cornerstone of the Musée Marmottan’s Impressionist collections.

Thanks to Michel Monet, the Impressionist collection would soon become one of the museum’s great riches. Michel Marmottan made the Musée Marmottan got Claude Monet’s sole legatee. When he died, in 1966, over a hundred Monets, including a unique ensemble of large-format Water Lilies, were added to the institution’s collection.

Since the salons of Paul Marmottan’s townhouse were too small to show works on such a scale, a new room was specially designed under the garden. In 1970, these canvases, most of which had never been shown, were put on display. They form the world’s biggest collection of works by Claude Monet. The home of Paul Marmottan had grown and was now also the home of the father of Impressionism. The museum became known as the Musée Marmottan Monet.

Many other benefactors have enriched the museum since its creation. In 1981, Daniel Wildenstein offered the collection of illuminations that his father, Georges, had begun putting together at the age of sixteen. Between 1909 and 1930, the dealer had acquired many works of the first order at auction, in galleries and on the Marché Biron in Paris. Deriving from prestigious collections—those of Jean Dollfus, Édouard Aynard, and Frédéric Engel-Gros— this ensemble featured many masterpieces, including several pages attributed to Jean Fouquet, Jean Bourdichon, Jean Perréal, and Giulio Clovio. Completed by Daniel, the whole collection was placed in the Musée Marmottan Monet.

The 322 miniatures by the French, Italian, Flemish, and English schools, dating from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, constitute one of the finest collections of illuminations in France. An Empire-style townhouse and great center of Impressionism, the museum has also become a paramount site for the study of ancient manuscripts.

Jacque Carlu, then curator of the museum, built a special exhibition space for the Monet collection in a lower level of the museum. Inspired by the hall designed for Monet’s Water Lilies murals in the Musée de l’Orangerie, the large, open room allows visitors to see a progression of Monet’s work, as well as to view his canvases both up close and from afar.

One of the most notable pieces in the museum is Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Impression, Soleil Levant), the painting from which the Impressionist movement took its name. The painting was stolen from the Musée Marmottan in 1985 but recovered five years later and returned to the permanent exhibit in 1991.

Jules and Paul Marmottan collections
The collections of Paul Marmottan, bequeathed in 1932 with the private mansion which houses the museum, include works by primitive Italian, German and Flemish painters (Michel Haider) as well as sculptures, tapestries and old stained glass windows. Most of the collections are however devoted to the art of the First Empire with a rich set of furniture (Jacob, Bellangé, Thomire, Feuchère…), sculptures (Canova, Chaudet, Chinard, Pajou…), works of art, paintings…

This collection includes works by the greatest artists of the period such as David, Ingres, Gros, Girodet, Fabre, Boilly and in his portrait gallery, François Gérard, Louis Gauffier, Carle Vernet, etc.

Donation Duhem Collection
Painter and collector from the North of France, Henri Duhem (1860-1941) built up with his wife Marie Duhem, née Sergeant, a collection of major works. Until his death in 1941, he lived surrounded by the care of his wife’s niece, Nelly Sergeant, who became his sole heiress. Anxious to perpetuate the memory of the two artists and to respond to the wishes of Henri and Marie Duhem, Nelly Sergeant-Duhem bequeathed their entire collection to the Academy of Fine Arts in 1985.

This collection includes more than one hundred paintings, watercolors and bronzes by French artists of the 19th century and 20th century: Eugène Boudin, Jules Breton, Eugène Carrière, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Paul Gauguin, Albert Lebourg, Claude Monet as well as Rembrandt…

Moved to the first floor from April 14, 2010, the Georges Wildenstein room brings together an exceptional set of illuminations from the French, Italian, Flemish and English schools from the 13th to the 16th century, some by the hand of famous painters such as Sano di Pietro, Jean Fouquet, Jean Bourdichon or Giulio Clovio.

Claude Monet Collection
The museum has the largest collection of works by Monet in the world (94 canvases, 29 drawings, 8 sketchbooks, his palettes, his letters, photographs, personal items). The entire career of the master of Impressionism is traced through his paintings and drawings. Some of his most famous works are exhibited in the museum, which now bears his name: notably the famous Impression, rising sun, which is the first properly Impressionist painting (and which moreover gave its name to the movement), Sur the beach at Trouville from 1870, the Portrait of Poly from 1886, the Japanese Bridges, the Boat at Giverny from 1887,London. The parliament. Reflections on the Thames from 1905, Rouen Cathedral, sun effect, end of day and the Water Lilies from 1916 to 1919.

The Impressionists
Around Claude Monet, all the great masters of impressionist painting, but also post-impressionist, are present as well as other painters less known to the general public, helping to make the Marmottan-Monet museum one of the most complete in the world for these two major movements in 19th century art.

Throughout the rooms, showcase works by Eugène Boudin, Johan Barthold Jongkind, Camille Corot, Caillebotte, Degas, Manet, Berthe Morisot, Pissarro, Armand Guillaumin, Auguste Renoir,Auguste Rodin, Alfred Sisley, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac, Albert Lebourg, Henri Lebasque…

Berthe Morisot Collection
Thanks to bequests from the artist’s grandsons Denis and Julien Rouart and their wives in 1993 and 1996, the museum has the world’s largest collection of works by Berthe Morisot, wife of Eugène Manet, himself brother of ‘ Édouard Manet and pupil of Corot. The museum thus preserves 81 works by the artist including paintings, watercolours, pastels and drawings, in addition to a deposit of seven sketchbooks.