Archives of the Dream at Musée de l’Orangerie


The Musée de l’Orangerie has rehung its impressive permanent collection, and, until the end of June, augmented it with a temporary drawing expo. Both are worth walking across Paris to see.

In the permanent collection, new signage, in French and English, reveals artists as collector (and the museum’s benefactor) Paul Guillaume would have seen them: the sculptural qualities of Renoir’s paintings a result of his beginnings as a porcelain artist; in Cézanne’s break from Impressionism, his movement toward works that are more sketching than painting.

Interiors and odalisques by Matisse are hung opposite works by Picasso—in the spirit of a show that Guillaume organized.

The current temporary exhibit, “Archives of the Dream,” featuring lesser-known works from the Musée d’Orsay, delves into the world of dreams. Organized by subject matter and specific artists, it includes many inspired works: portraits by Fantin-Latour and Courbet, sketches by Millet, arts and crafts compositions by Walter Crane, renderings by Maurice Denis, early pastels by Degas, and water colors by Cézanne.

Les Macchiaioli at Musée de l’Orangerie

image Rotonde de Palmierei

At the heart of Les Macchiaioli , the current show at Musée de l’Orangerie, is the question of whether Italian painters developed their own version of Impressionism independently of the French, at about the same time.

Macchiaioli, named for areas of light and shadow, or “macchie”, shares traits with French Impressionism, to be sure. Painters of both movements rejected academic compositions and historical themes in favor of rural scenes; they expressed variations in lighting through contrasting patches of color. Both were influenced by photography and plein air painting.

Yet the Italians were fueled by political fervor, to protest against art that had become too elitist. They worked with a more restricted color palette than the French, eschewed industrial innovations as subjects, and developed an unusual elongated horizontal format.

My favorite work in the show, Le Rotonde de Palmierei, by Giovanni Fattori, uses simplified forms and horizontal bands of color to capture the movement of wind and light beside the ocean. It made me think of Eugène Boudin, who painted seaside in Honfleur, and of the influence of Japanese prints on French Impressionism.

The show at l’Orangerie is a thoughtful and delightful collection of work. On view are striking images of domestic life, landscapes bathed in sun and shadow, realistic battle scenes, even a film that incorporates political upheaval and decorative interiors.

Until July 22.

Have you seen this show?


Debussy, Music and the Arts at Musée de l’Orangerie

Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie are reaching across artistic disciplines – and the Seine – in a new expo devoted to Claude Debussy. The show, Debussy, la Musique et les Arts, at L’Orangerie, demonstrates the influence of French visual artists and poets on Debussy’s music.

Paintings, drawings and pastels by Degas, Renoir, Vuillard, Gauguin, and Maurice Denis among others, are shown beside letters and photographs by the artists.

Original editions by Gide and Valéry are also displayed, as well as manuscripts by Ernest Chausson, one of Debussy’s early supporters.

Debussy’s manuscripts are not only featured, but his work is performed. The d’Orsay will present two concerts in March featuring Debussy’s L’Enfant prodigue.

Until June 11.