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A hidden gem

Not many people know that Jardin de Tuileries has a museum. It is called Musée de l’Orangerie. Situated directly at the right corner by the main entry from Place de la Concorde, this tiny museum posses an excellent collection of impressionism and post impressionism with Monet’s Water Lilies series, Les Nymphéas as main attraction (see first two pics).


Les Nymphéas
The French name of this world-famous series sounds somewhat exotic while it means simply Water Lilies. Monet studied the water lilies on his ponds in Giverny starting from 1886. As a true impressionist he captured the light and its reflection perfectly on the ponds. The light in all 8 gigantic panels, exposed in two different halls, goes from sunshine to sunset with the exact tones. In the first painting golden brownish orangey tones dominate. In the other paintings that follow they soften and turn blueish in de mid afternoon and end as almost black at the end of the day. That very impression of the hour you get is very strong while Monet didn’t even paint the horizon and there is no above or beneath to define the object. The elements water, sky, weather and soil integrate harmoniously in a composition without perspective. Hat off to the master!


Entering the halls where Les Nymphéas hang I absorbed them hungrily with my eyes. I took a seat and observed them one by one in particular order, from the golden dawn version till the dark one. Photography is forbidden here allowing the visitors to enjoy these Monet’s masterpieces. The serenity, the oval form and the tranquility gave me an unforgettable experience, excellent! For a moment I felt like I’d been dragged to a day at Giverny by looking at the paintings.

The origin of Orangerie
The museum de l’orangerie comes, like its name says from the building which used to be an orangerie. Originally in the 18th- 19th century it was a greenhouse to store the plants/trees which could not survive the chilly winter outside. Firstly people began to place Orange trees/plants in an orangerie, hence the name. At that time this storage was chic and very expensive. Gradually other plants/trees were stored there during winter but the greenhouse had kept its original name as Orangerie. Nowadays there are still many well-preserved orangeries with its original use, as a green house for plants in the winter, spread in several countries in Europe


stairs to the basement to permanent collection musée de l'orangérie

stairs to the basement to the permanent collection

The entry of the Nymphéas hall musée de l'orangérie

The entry of the Nymphéas hall

Museum history
This orangérie was built in 1852 by Firmin Bourgeois and completed by his successor Ludovico Visconti to store orange plants of Tuileries garden. During the third republic it had been used as a mini arsenal, a clinic to treat wounded soldiers, exhibitions of industries and other events. In 1921 this building was appointed to the management of des Beaux-arts (fine art). It was then when Claude Monet chose this orangerie to display Les Nymphéas which he had been working on since 1914 and completed in 1926.

I love how it is built & arranged. Knowing this has been an orangerie the museum is light inside. High paneled windows allow much sunlight in the gallery entry. In the white Nymphéas halls the ceiling has a dome form made from glass. The permanent collection is called Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection with paintings of Pierre -Auguste Renoir, Henry Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Cézanne, André Derain, Pablo Picasso and many more.

Young girls on the piano by Pierre - Auguste Renoir collection musée de l'orangérie

Young girls on the piano by Pierre – Auguste Renoir

Jean Walter collection

hall of Jean Walter collection

Le boudoir by Henri Matisse collection musée de l'orangerie

Le boudoir by Henri Matisse

Madame Guillaume by André Derain collection musée de l'orangérie

Madame Guillaume by André Derain

Visitors looking at André Derain's Harlequin and Pierrot musée de l'orangérie

Visitors looking at André Derain’s Harlequin and Pierrot and still life

Femme au canapé by Henri Matisse collection musée de l'orangérie

Femme au canapé by Henri Matisse

Woman with velvet bow by Amedeo Modigliani collection musée de l'orangérie

Woman with velvet bow (femme au ruban) by Amedeo Modigliani

Approaching the museum do not miss Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss in front of the entry. At the left side garden of the entry there stand three statues byRodin and his mistress/muse Camille Claudel. At the doorstep of the museum literary, you enter the Tuileries garden.


The Kiss, Auguste Rodin

Garden of Musée de l'orangérie

Three statues of Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel at the garden of the museum

If you are in Paris for a short stay and you love impressionism, visit this museum. Unlike the overwhelming Musée d’Orsay and Musée du Louvre, an hour visit to Musée de l’Orangérie is an hour well spent.


  • An entry costs € 7,-. (price May 2013)
  • For € 16,- you get a twin ticket (billet jumelé) to both Musée de l’orangérie and Musée d’Orsay which is handy as the queue at Musée d’Orsay is mostly very long.
  • Opening hours: every day except Tuesday from 9 am – 6 pm.
  • Photography with no flash is only allowed in the halls of Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection.

For more information visit the website.

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