The Louvre is an art lover’s dream — a sprawling spectacle of magnificent works from around the world.
The Musée d'Orsay is another monumental experience. Its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces makes it one of the most quintessentially French art museums in Paris.
In a single day, you will visit the Louvre and the Orsay. We’ll look at the long history of art in Europe and the world, seeing all the innovations that led up to the explosion of Impressionism.
Then, we will walk to Orsay, where you can see the paintings that shook the art world to its core and birthed the modern style.
Duration of the tour is 4 hours - 9am to 1pm
It begins with two hours at the Louvre, which opens early and awakens us to the marvels of art. Then, we spend two hours at the Orsay, seeing where all those threads of art history converged into a moment in time where anything on the canvas was possible.
The painting rooms are open at certain days of the week
This combo tour can be possible only on Wednesday - Thursday - Friday - Saturday
If this sounds like the perfect way to spend your morning in Paris, email me today!
Let’s begin planning your ultimate art tour of the city.
But until you hop on a plane, let’s look through some of the insights we can learn from the collections at these two museums.
We will start the private tour by skipping the waiting line at the Louvre Pyramid main entrance.
It’s no secret that the Louvre’s collection houses peerless masters. Their contributions often shaped the way people made art.
When we think about the development of art from the Middle Ages to Renaissance to the mid 19th century, we get a special appreciation for the collection of the Louvre and at then at the Musée d'Orsay.
The Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) was many things. An inventor, an engineer, a scientist, an architect.
But he also made time for art, becoming one of the most important sculptors and painters in human history.
Leonardo approached his art in the way you might expect an engineer and scientist to. He strove for realism of the highest degree.
The search for this verisimilitude led him to analyse the anatomy of cadavers — his notebooks are full of in-depth illustrations of his autopsies which contain breakthroughs in the understanding of the human body.
That drive for the perfection of realism went beyond the human form. He also made intricate studies of human emotions and how they are expressed by the face, and his lifelong interest in botany, the behaviour of light, and architecture round out his paintings with worlds that feel so real you might think the paintings are windows onto an actual event.
To eliminate the appearance of brush strokes, he stacked thin layers of oil paint, blending them directly on the canvas. He also innovated the sfumato technique — where the artist blends colors softly to mimic the way the eye perceives things out of focus. You can see this in full force in the Mona Lisa and Virgin of the Rocks, both at the Louvre.
<- Update Nov 2022: St John baptist is loaned to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
While an artist like Leonardo spent his life honing his skills to achieve a never before seen level of realism, later artists would come along to show that there was so much more to painting. And one of the most enjoyable examples of this change is none other than Eugène Delacroix.
Though Delacroix (1798 - 1863) was born wealthy, the French Revolution had an immense hold on his life. While his personal and political views always remained conservative, he was himself a revolutionary in his art studio.
Rather than focus on historical paintings, as was the expectation for great artists at the time, Delacroix was far more interested in depicting images from the East.
On his travels to Spain, Morocco, and Algeria, he was able to see first hand the Arabic and Jewish influence on culture. This further inspired his scenes to take on a living, breathing quality.
And that led him to his most important contribution to the world of art: the emphasis on extreme emotion and vitality to painting. When you compare his work to others of his time, Delacroix’s canvases appear alive, burning with passion and pathos. These are works that almost move in front of you, sweeping you up into the scene.
He was a major contributor to the Romantic movement, which made transcendent individual moments of fear and love its stock and trade.
One of the ways he did this was by resisting the urge to over-finish paintings — foregoing the multi-layered pursuit of realism that an artist like Leonardo worked for his entire career. In many of his works, background figures are roughly rendered. And there are even characters in the foreground who lack much polish.
This was his way of keeping his work vital, free. Our eye must collaborate with Delacroix, making us engage in the construction of the world in the painting.
Delacroix resisted the use of the line.
Whereas painters of his time built up images from outlines, Delacroix went directly to painting with colour. This allows the paintings to move quickly, keeping the compositions fresh and potent. And the method became a popular way for artists to work.
Updates March 2023 :
* The painting of the Death of Sardanapalus is still under restoration by the Louvre until April 2023.
* The junction between Middle ages, Renaissance and Modernity (Louvre & Orsay) can be made through many artists and not only Delacroix or Da Vinci.
Paris is home to many, many world renowned art museums.
And the Musée d'Orsay is the second most well known and loved. It is regularly ranked among the 20 most visited art museums in the world.
That popularity is built on its incredible artwork. D'Orsay plays host to the single largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.
We are now in a period of modernity ranging from 1848 to 1914 just before WWI.
Amazing Artists, such as Rosa Bonheur, the Master of Animal Paintings, changed the French society perceptions.
Here, you can see some of the finest pieces by French masters like Gauguin, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Manet, Renoir, and more.
These are the generations of artists that come after painters like Delacroix but before the full emergence of modern art.
That position in history gives them an importance few groups of artists have ever enjoyed.
They serve as the transition of painting : their work shows us the process of art rediscovering itself as the world changed rapidly around the artists.
In works by Monet, Manet, and their contemporaries, we see an entirely new approach to both the technique of painting and acceptable subject matter for fine art.
They liberated artists from the rules that dominated European painting for centuries. In their explorations, they found entirely new modes of painting a scene. With strict realism out of the way, there seemed to be a style of painting unique to the individual artist. This gave them the opportunity for expression never before seen.
Orsay artists painted a much wider range of subject matter was equally important. Their work isn’t dominated by religious or historical scenes. Instead, they introduced the world of women, the working class, and everyday events in life.
Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass is a perfect example — causing a scandal in the Paris art scene of its day.
Or consider Gustave Caillebotte’s The Floor Scrapers, a masterful piece of social realism decades before that idea would take hold among artists worldwide.
As the Post-Impressionists came a generation later, painters like Van Gogh and Cézanne took all these innovations and ran with them.
While the Impressionists were liberated, their innovations retained a strong adherence to the way that color and light actually appear to the human eye.
Their works look less real than anything by Leonardo, but they were in some ways much more real to the human experience of a scene.
The Post-Impressionists wanted to go beyond that by using color and forms in a more abstract way.
It is their work that led directly to many styles in the 20th century — from Fauvism to Abstract art, from Cubism to Dada.
In your Paris walking tour of the Louvre and the d'Orsay, you can directly experience the story of Western art from the Renaissance (and long before) up to the moments that led to art as we know it.
Standing before these works, we can appreciate the careful, scientific realism of Leonardo. We can see the exuberant emotions of Delacroix as he begins to break from tradition. And we can see that break turn into an entire movement as Impressionists changed art forever. Finally, the Post-Impressionists show us how, in only a few years, the new freedom in the studio turned into a radical expansion of possibilities.
What’s very inspiring is to not only see the differences among these artists and movements, but also the great similarities. This is a continuous story that you get to live in person.
You cannot appreciate a Van Gogh without first understanding a Da Vinci. Both are masters and both are medium of their time and place. Most importantly, both made immense contributions to art, that we can enjoy together on our Louvre & d'Orsay combo tour.
The combo tour never fails to fill people with awe and inspiration.
We are forever indebted to these artists who’ve made the world of Western Art such a beautiful place to explore.
Best time slots for this tour:
Please check the day of the week before booking the Combo tour :
Musée D'Orsay is closed on Mondays.
The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.
Guide Conférenciers are not able to guide in D'Orsay on Sundays (exceptional Museum rule)
I will help you with getting the tickets and I will assist you with the booking process as well.
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