The Musée de l’Orangerie is a museum of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings located in the Jardin des Tuileries, at the western end of the Terrace on the water’s edge, Place de la Concorde, in Paris.
The most famous for being the permanent home for eight Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet, the museum also contains works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo, among others.
Six great intellectuals recently described the museum chosen and arranged by Claude Monet to showcase his “testamentary” masterpieces as “Unique in its genre”.
Next to the Nympheas, “the haven of peaceful meditation”, a gift to modern man with his “overworked nerves”, the Orangerie offers a fabulous concentration of masterpieces from the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection, a highly original insight into modern art featuring Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Rousseau, Matisse, Derain, Modigliani, Soutine, Utrillo and Laurencin.
The Orangerie was originally built in 1852 by the architect Firmin Bourgeois and completed by his successor, Ludovico Visconti, to shelter the orange trees of the garden of the Tuileries. Used by the Third Republic in the nineteenth century as deposit for goods, an examination room, and place of lodging for mobilized soldiers, it also served to house sporting, musical, and patriotic events. Additionally, it was a place to display exhibitions of industry, animals, plants, as well as rare displays of painting.
On April 12, 1922 Claude Monet signed a contract donating the Nymphéas series of decorative panels painted on canvas to the French government, to be housed in redesigned, oval rooms at the Orangerie. With input from Monet, the head architect at the Louvre, Camille Lefèvre, drafted new plans and elevations in 1922 to house Monet’s large Nymphéas canvases, incorporating natural light, plain walls, and sparse interior decoration. According to Hoog’s research, “funds were made available on August 17, 1922, work began in October and seems to have been finished in [the] following year.” Unwilling to relinquish his final works of art, these water lilies paintings stayed with Monet until his death on December 5, 1926. On January 31, 1927 the Laurent-Fournier company agreed to install and mount the panels (a process that involved gluing the canvas directly to the walls), and the paintings were in place by March 26 of that year. On May 17, 1927 Monet’s Nymphéas at the Musée de l’Orangerie opened to the public.
Paul Guillaume’s widow, Mrs. Jean Walter, donated their modern art collection to the Musées Nationaux in 1958. The Orangerie has housed the Paul Guillaume collection of 19th and 20th century modern paintings since 1965.
A cycle of Monet’s water-lily paintings, known as the Nymphéas, was arranged on the ground floor of the Orangerie in 1927. They are available under direct diffused light as was originally intended by Monet. The eight paintings are displayed in two oval rooms all along the walls. The museum was closed to the public from the end of August 1999 until May 2006. For several months before it was closed there was a special exhibit of Monet’s Nymphéas that were gathered from museums throughout the world. More than 60 of the 250 paintings he made of the water lilies in his garden were included. The walls were repainted in shades of purples and violet for this special exhibit. The Orangerie was renovated in order to move the paintings to the upper floor of the gallery.