Inside the famous Tuileries Garden, where the Louvre and Place de la Concorde reign, stands the Musée de l'Orangerie, a gem of the art world. Its collection contains tremendous depth, capped by the central masterpiece of impressionism. And it all takes place in the stately halls of a Second Empire architectural marvel!
This is a stunning collection, one often accompanied by some of the best exhibitions in the city. That, combined with its architecture, convenient location, and the presence of Monet’s magnum opus all make it a favorite museum of the art world.
The gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in Musée de L'orangerie tells the tale of French art through a critical period in the development of culture.
Here, you’ll find some of the greatest works of art by people like:
All this amazing "Art of Paris" can be seen in a contemporary art complex that has grown out of such an impressive work of 19th century design makes this a quintessential experience of Paris.
On your next trip to the City of Lights, make sure to take in this wonder with our experienced tour guide !
The Musée de L'Orangerie was built in 1852 under the orders of Napoleon III.
The Tuileries gardens were to have citrus trees added — but these trees did not thrive in the Paris winters... So Firmin Bourgeois was charged with creating a structure where they could be moved during the cold months.
For this reason, south facing windows abound, and the entire place is given the grandeur we would expect from the Second Empire period.
The now famous entrances were designed by Louis Visconti, one of the era’s most popular architects. He is also known for Napoleon's Tomb and many fountains around Paris.
The Orangerie eventually became a venue for music, art, and other public events through the later part of the 19th century. But after the end of the First World War, the French state turned it into a permanent art museum.
This included a partnership with none other than Claude Monet, a story we will touch on again in the next section.
Of course, nothing stays the same forever, and the Orangerie has seen its own renovations and major shifts through the years. Most of this has included expansion.
It now has a library, educational spaces, temporary exhibition rooms, and an auditorium.
But as we love to do in France, we have always taken care to preserve features of our history.
For this reason, renovations are carefully planned out and ensure that the future and the past live happily together in the present.
Today, the Orangerie Paris institution is well regarded for its collection as well as the building that shines a light on a different era of art.
Such strong architecture combined with the art on display makes for an unforgettable cultural experience in the heart of the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
The centerpiece of the Orangerie is the enormous Water Lilies installation by Claude Monet. This experience, spanning two oval-shaped rooms designed by the artist himself, is perhaps the defining work of the impressionist movement.
The gently curving surfaces of the enormous paintings depict one of the ponds at Monet’s Giverny. Each work captures the same view from a different time of day, allowing audiences to ponder the way light moves through the world.
To paint these panoramic views, he worked on multiple paintings a day. While one might give you a certain viewpoint in the dimness of early morning, another might give you the rushing forth of noontime. Then you can see it in the languid light of afternoon, and finally the golden hour of evening.
It is here, standing in the oval rooms encircled by Monet’s paintings, that we find ourselves at the pinnacle of impressionism.
The play of light, the celebration of color — this is that special magic we know these painters for.
Altogether, these rooms at the Orangerie account for a small fraction of the total series, which includes 250 oil paintings spread across museums throughout the world.
They were his obsessions in the last decades of his career, a prolific time even as his eyes began to fail from cataracts.
The eight works displayed at the Orangerie were made to be shown in this exact space, making them the most coherent presentation of the series. Unfortunately, Monet died just months before the rooms were debuted to the public.
While dealers and collectors play an important role in the art world, few ever rise to great fame. Paul Guillaume broke this mold. And when you see the impact that his taste and forward thinking had on the world of art, it’s easy to see why he became such a notable figure.
He brought African art to European exhibitions, he discovered many leading talents, and he grew a collection over his life that represents some of the best French art of his time.
By bringing African art into exhibitions in the middle of Paris, Guillarme helped to place it at the center of our understanding of Modernism.
This has had a continuing influence on our study of the movement today. He also helped popularize artists such as Amedeo Modigliani and Chaïm Soutine — both figures of staggering originality.
Part of his desire to create a large collection was to eventually offer it to the public in a modern art museum format.
After his death in 1934, all of his paintings and sculptures moved into the hands of his wife Domenica, and she did not think the collection was finished. She continued to expand and shape it, with a particular interest in adding impressionist works.
She later married the architect Jean Walter, and together they added many more pieces, reforming the overall narrative of the works.
From 1959 to 1963, Domenica handed over both the Jean Walter and Paul Guillame collections (both since deceased) — fulfilling a dream her first husband had so many decades before.
To make room for this colossal addition, the Musée de l'Orangerie conducted major renovations, essentially remaking the vast majority of its floor space. Much of its existing collection of the time was removed to offer even more space — and those removed works would help create the basis of the Musée d’Orsay.
The introduction of art from the Paul Guillaume and Jean Walter collections is what turned the Orangerie from an auxiliary of the Louvre into its own bona fide museum. It’s also what helped give birth to the Orsay. For this reason, it might be the most important private art collection in history!
The Orangerie not only boasts one of the best permanent collections — it is also famous for its temporary exhibits. These have been the talk of Paris almost since the museum opened, and they have continued that legacy into the 21st century.
This single exhibit famously brought in more than a million visitors, ushering in the Orangerie as a major destination for the art world. This spotlight on Peter Paul Rubens, a true master of the Flemish Baroque, helped to bolster his reputation almost 300 years after his death.
This famous exhibition of Degas’s work was a part of a shift going on in the Orangerie and the art world as a whole. Before, artist exhibitions would be an almost random assortment of works, often from around the same period. But with this show, they moved their focus to major retrospectives. This one helped solidify the new format as a critical way to help the world understand the contributions and careers of artists.
This exhibition was a major hit in mid-century Paris, foreshadowing the growing appreciation of van Gogh’s work that seems to still be on the ascent today. It made such an impact that you can still find prints of the show’s poster online — a rarity for a museum exhibition.
La Tour was rediscovered in the 20th century thanks in large part to his inclusion at the Orangerie show Painters of Reality in 1934. Almost three decades later, he returned in a retrospective at the same museum, this time in a show that fully cemented himself as a master of the Baroque.
Across 22 paintings, the curatorial team at the Orangerie celebrated this expressionist painter with special ties to the rest of the museum. After all, it was Paul Guillaume who discovered the artist, and it is Guillaume’s collection that now helps to define the Orangerie. And of course, let’s not forget the indescribable power and pathos of Soutine’s work!
Continuing the tradition of presenting the greatest temporary exhibitions in the art world, the Orangerie is giving us Matisse: Cahiers d’Art Matisse, the Pivotal 1930s, a look at Henri Matisse and his reinvention through the 1930s.
Up until this point, the artist had made a name for himself in a singular style. It’s this style that wrote his ticket to superstardom. Even now, when we see one of these earlier paintings, we immediately recognize the artist.
But by 1930, these Fauve and Nice works were in his rearview mirror. Yet the artist still had plans to do something new, something important. He was 62, but he wasn’t finished. While almost any artist of his level would be content to ride out the remaining years of his career, Matisse was ready to begin a new chapter.
It started with a commission for the Barnes Foundation building in Philadelphia. He created an enormous mural — called The Dance — that proved difficult to finish. To help him accomplish the work, he hired a Russian immigrant named Lydia Delectorskaya, who would go on to play a decisive role for the rest of Matisse’s career.
When he found out that the mural would need to be redone, he tried something new. He used color cutouts to temporarily fill out his image — as these could be easily changed if he should need to make adjustments. That technique was then carried over to his other work, which continued to grow and change over the decade.
These works include the likes of Large Reclining Nude (1935) and The Song (1938).
To pull off this important retrospective, the Orangerie has collaborated with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Matisse Museum in Nice. This unites many pieces that have never been seen together, all to illustrate a tale of renewal for an artist beginning to face old age. It is an inspiration — reminding us that we are always capable of creation.
A guided tour of the Orangerie creates a customizable, personal experience of this beautiful museum. It is fully interactive, unlike an audio guide, and we can always make decisions in the moment, depending on what grabs your attention. With art, you never know what might spark that rush of inspiration!
You’ll also be able to navigate the museum in the right order, making sure that we get to the pieces you really want to see.
Your tour guide has the knowledge to maximize the value of your time here, while also delivering the stories and facts that will mean the most to you.
The Orangerie has a staggering collection, with a very high percentage of masterpieces.
That means every bit of expertise helps when cutting your way through the museum.
A guided tour gives you a friendly, well-educated storyteller with a passion for art history.
Our team has excellent English skills, helping you navigate the city as if you were a Parisian yourself! And every one of our guides is trained at the Sorbonne and the School of the Louvre — so you can trust the information you receive.
We prioritize creating unforgettable experiences that help you understand the human dimension to the paintings you see. Our Orangerie tour will get you to fall in love with Modern art all over again!
You can begin talking (directly) with a guide to ask all your questions and start customizing your own visit to the Orangerie in Paris.
The Musee de L'Orangerie do not sell skip-the-line tickets with any third party. However the entry time on the timed-tickets are usually respected by the security of the Musée de L'Orangerie.
Musée de l'Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, 75007, France
09:00 – 18:00
Musée de L'Orangerie is open every day except Tuesdays - from 9am to 6pm. Tour guides can't provide tours on Sundays. Tour guides can't provide tours for Orangerie Exhibits
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