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The Musee d'Orsay

1, rue de Solférino. Metro : Solférino. 10am - 6pm.
Thursday : 10am - 9h45pm

olympia manet musee d'orsay    The heavy-set, stone Musee d'Orsay, in a converted railway station, located on the riverfront, contains three floors of painting and sculpture from 1848 to 1914, including the electrifying Impressionists and their successors, the Post-Impressionists.
    The building itself was originally inaugurated as a railway station in 1900, continuing to serve the stations of the southest France until 1939. After that, the theatre troupe Renauld-Barrault staged several production here, Orson Welles filmed his version of kafka's the Trial here and De Gaulle used it to announce his coup d'etat of may 19, 1958. Notwithstanding this illustrious history, it was only spared a hotel developer's bulldozer by a colossal wave of public indignation and remorse on the part of the city authorities at the destruction of les halles.
    The job of redesigning the interior as a museum was given, in 1986, to fashionable Milanese architect Gae Aulenti. The results are, without doubt, ingenious, a combination of well-laid out galleries, ample ligthning, fine presentation and invigorating pulse reminiscent of its days as a train station. Critics complain that the space is overdesigned and the collection overwhelmingly large, but don't be put off : the collection is unsurpassed in quality, as well as quantity. It's well worth taking hald a day, if not a whole one, to meander through it.
    The collection is arranged in a cavernous central space and on three storeys either side. The general layout follows a loose chronological thread, beginning in the ground floor, continuing on the top floor and finishing on the middle level. Each room is numbered, a fact generally ignored by most visitors, and seeing them in order is highly advisable.
    Romantic and Neoclassical artists are exhibited on the ground floor, including, in the central aisle, the mid-nineteenth Century sculptors Carpeaux, whose titillating  piece The Dance (1863-1869) shocked contemporary audiences, and Barye, whose bronze cast of the seated Lion (1847) was more warmly received. The galleries in the far left corner of the building display furniture and architectural models, spanning Viollet-le-duc to Frank Lloyd Wright, and ground floor features models and drawings of the Opera Garnier, completed in 1875.
    To the right of the centrale aisle, rooms dedicated to Ingres and Delacroix highlight the colourful and dramatically emotional Romanticism of the early nineteenth century. Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau and early Degas follow, while over in the galleries to the left. Daumier, Corot, Millet and the Realist School depart from the academic parameters of moralistic subject matter and idealization of the past.
    Enter the ground-breaking works that were to inspire the early Impressionists : among these are Courbet's Origin of the World, a painting  of a foresthortened nude female lounging on a rumpled bed, her genitalia exposed, and Manet's Olympia, as a controversial in its day for its colour contrasts and sensual surfaces, as for the portrayal of Olympia as a defiant high-class whore. Both paintings mark a transition from the traditional subtle treatment of the artist's nude to the representation of explicit sexuality.
    The collection continues chronogically on the top level. The private collection donated by the assiduous collector and art historian Moreau-Nélaton resides in room 29 and features some of the most famous Impressionist images - Monet's poppies (1873) and Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe; literally "lunch of the grass", which was refused by the Salon in 1863.  The critics were scandalized by the alleged indecency of two fully dressed men sitting alongside a naked female bather. The next few rooms serve up Impressionism's most indentifiable masterpieces. Degas' ballet dancers, caught backstages and arranged in Japanese influenced compositions, and numerous landscapes and outdoor scenes by Renoir, Sisley, Pissaro and Monet. The Cradle (1872) by Berthe Morisot, the only woman in the group of early impressionists, synthetizes the classic techniques of the movement with complex human emotion.  Shimmering light and wide brush strokes dominicate Renoir's depiction of Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette (1876), a favourite Sunday afternoon social event on the Butte Montmartre.
    The museum owns five ot the thirty pintings in Monet's Rouen cathedral series (1892-1894), a collection that tracks his obsession with light. Both La Gare Saint-Lazare (1877) and Water lilies are parts of separate series, done fifteen years beofre and after respectively, with a similar goal in mind. Room 35, full of the bold colours and disturbing rhythms of Van Gogh, illustrates the Post-Impressionists' distincts departure from the already established Impressionists. Cezanne is wonderfully represented in Room 36, his complex Still Life with Apples and Oranges (1895), with its jaunty diagonal lines, prefigures Cubism.
    The rest of the top level is given over the various descendants of Impressionists. Among a number of Pointilliste works by Seurat, Signac and others, is Rousseau's dream like Snake Charmer (1907), made all more remarkable when you remember that the artist was essentially self-taught. There's Gauguin, post and pre Tahiti, as well as plenty of Toulouse Lautrec 's images of life in Paris's brassy theatres, cafes, bars, brothels and nights clubs.
    The middle level takes in Rodin and other late nineteenth century sculptors, several rooms of superb Art Nouveau and Jugendstil furnitures and objets, and the original somptuous reception room of the station hotel. Overlooking the Seine, room 60 features Klimt's Rose bushes under Trees (1905), with its glittery leaves, and some of Munch's lesser known works. Across the corridor, tucked away in Room 71 and 72, are the Nabis painters, Vuillard and Bonnard, whose pieces are very much inspired by the art of Japan.

10 mn walking from Studio St Germain and Studio Mazarine

Trocadero and Palais de Chaillot history
Les Champs-Elysées
La Place de la Concorde
L'Opéra Garnier
Père-Lachaise Cemetery
Musée d'Orsay
Musée du Louvre
La Madeleine
Les Invalides
Ile St-Louis
Tuileries Gardens
Musée Marmottan
Passages and Galeries
le Jardin des Plantes
Place Vendome

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30 mn walking from Studio Marais , rue du Bourg-Tibourg or
  Studio Sicile , rue du Roi de Sicile.