Sunday, August 30, 2015

Musée d'Orsay has it all

Art galleries today, like concert halls, are full of people taking pictures. Concert halls  try to limit their use but art galleries seem to welcome cameras and so they should since visual imagery is their reason d'être. The only exception I can recall is that small gem, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in New Zealand.

At the Musée d'Orsay in Paris  you can't resist joining the photographers when you see the originals of works you have so often seen in books and find they are different in real life.  You take a photo, once again consigning the image to a different medium, one which may or may not look more like the original than the ones you've seen in books.  So here are a few photos from the Musée d'Orsay and the reason why I took them.

Main hall, Musée d'Orsay
When you walk into the gallery after queuing to get in (there is a sign at the end of the cordoned walkway saying "queue takes about 30 minutes from this point', and it is spot on) you think you are in a railway station with sculptures and you wonder where the paintings are. I discovered only later that the building was once a railway station, rescued from destruction and remodelled to show art. There is a set of internal stairs accessible from the fifth floor which you are invited to walk down to admire the architecture. 

5th floor poster promoting the internal staircase.
The structure, with paintings displayed in rooms along the length of the main gallery works well as there are lots of 'entrances' where important works can be displayed on the opposite wall to great effect. There are a lot of iconic works at the Musée d'Orsay! 

Paintings are shown in a way that makes them accessible. For example in a poster about the importance of the Salon, it is noted that the critics taste of the time largely determined the paintings now hanging, as the chosen work would be acquired by the state. 

I couldn't help thinking as I watched the eager throngs, what a wonderful investment art is for the State.

The Burial at Ornans, with viewers
I took this photo of A Burial at Ornans complete with frame and viewers on the seat below to show how big it is. The painting made Gustave Courbet famous and knowing it was made for a Salon should have told me it would be enormous, but still I was surprised. 
There are a lot of similarly enormous Salon works at the Musée d'Orsay but also smaller, though sometimes even more controversial, work.

People take pictures of the paintings they like and most often those are the famous ones.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
Les Baigneuses
There are a lot of less successful paintings by less famous artists or even by the well know artists themselves and I always like to see them on display because they remind us that making a successful painting is not so easy and seeing the less successful work helps us appreciate the work and practise that art requires.

I took a picture of Les Baigneuses by Renoir because, for me, it is a less successful work. In real life the painting makes the models look as if they are constructed from a set of pink tires.

Small crowd looking at small painting 
As I walked on through the galleries I noticed a small group clustered around a small painting positioned promenantly in front of an entrance. No one was looking at the paintings on the walls either side.

Yes, it was Gustave Courbet's cheeky L'Origine du Mond (Origin of the World) that was attracting so much attention.

L'Origins du Mond

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