One of my all-time favorite small museums in Paris is the Musée de l’Orangerie, home of Claude Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies). I visited the museum on the first day it reopened and enjoyed seeing it without crowds. I wanted to share the experience with a virtual tour of the Musée de l’Orangerie. As a note, the lower level of the museum is currently closed.
The Story of Monet’s Nymphéas
The day after Armistice in 1918, Monet decided to gift Nymphéas to the French State as a symbol of peace. As a condition of the gift, Monet wanted to find the perfect space for the panels. Musée Rodin was an initial contender.
The Orangerie ended up being the perfect place for the Nymphéas. Monet loved the location between the Seine River and the Jardin des Tuileries, the East West orientation, as well as the alignment with one of the main axes of Paris. In 1909 Monet said of the museum:
…those with nerves exhausted by work would relax there, following the restful example of those still waters, and, to whoever entered it, the room would provide a refuge of peaceful meditation in the middle of a flowering aquarium.Claude Monet
All it takes is a visit to Musée de l’Orangerie for Monet’s intentions to become evident. It truly is a refuge in the middle of Paris and a perfect place to have a moment of stillness. You could spend hours taking in each stroke of Monet’s Water Lilies. It’s impossible to pick a favorite panel. For me, it’s one of the best small museums in Paris and maybe anywhere.
The Display of Nymphéas
17 years before Monet even started Nymphéas, he envisioned a panoramic arrangement that would “[envelop] the whole interior in its unity.” He constructed a massive studio in Giverny so that he could rearrange the panels as he liked. He started with displaying the panels in a circular space, then in an oval space, and eventually settled on a double ellipse to from the infinity symbol.
Surprisingly, the paintings weren’t immediately popular after their installation in 1927. During the liberation of Paris a shell damaged one of the panels. After World War II, Nymphéas in Musée de l’Orangerie started to be viewed as a success. Following Musée de l’Orangerie’s major renovation in 2006, Monet’s original vision of spherical natural light from the ceiling returned to the space.
Musée de l’Orangerie Virtual Tour
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the Musée de l’Orangerie and see why it’s one of my favorite small museums in Paris!
- Open from 9 AM to 6 PM, closed on Tuesdays
- Price: 6.50€ (free for under 18 and on each first Sunday of the month)
- Currently timed entries must be reserved online in advance