Museums in Paris

Below are some of the classical museums that I visited this past week in Paris. There are also great modern museums and exhibitions in Paris, including the most impressive photography museum I've seen at any time, in any city, in any country: Maison Européenne de la Photographie.

Musée Jacquemart André: The Jacquemart-André Museum is a private collection, featuring works by 18th-century Flemish, French and Italian painters. You get to see Rembrandt, for example, without the crowds of the larger museums, and also without the feeling that you're in a museum, because even though you're in a museum, you're not in a museum: You're in a private mansion that once belonged to a French husband and and wife, after whom the museum is named, who dealt and collected art.

Musée d'Orsay: A nice alternative to the overwhelming, and overwhelmingly crowded, Louvre, which for my taste is too full of ancient sculptures, reliefs, and borderline-boring works that are often no more interesting in person than they are when viewed in an art book. At the d'Orsay you'll find Cézanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Rousseau, Seurat, Gauguin. There was an amazing self-portrait done by Van Gogh, one you'd probably recognize as being iconic (1889), but unfortunately I didn't see Starry Night Over the Rhone Arles. It's possible it was not on display due to renovation. It appeared as though maybe 20 percent of the museum was unavailable due to construction, etc.

Musée du Louvre: I was disappointed with the Louvre. Partly because my feet hurt and I didn't feel like walking the many miles it would take to cover all of the grounds, but also because quantity doesn't always equal quality, or to put it more fairly, quantity doesn't always equal satisfaction. Seeing the Mona Lisa was especially disappointing. For reasons I can't quite figure out, the museum allows photography of the Mona Lisa, which means that nobody actually looks at the painting, they look at the LCD screens on their digital cameras, ostensibly to confirm that the photo they took is far less interesting than the many photos of the Mona Lisa that could be found online, and isn't that why you visit museums in the first place, so that you don't have to look at a photo? You can't really get too close to the painting, and it's tough to enjoy, and nearly impossible to enjoy it peacefully. There was a subtle buzz of crowd hysteria, a constant hum of people moving together, back and forth, like a wave, or flock of migrating birds. There is so much to see at the Louvre, but it didn't draw me in, and I didn't want to be there, so I didn't stay too long. Probably not more than an hour, definitely no longer than two.

Musée de l'Orangerie: The opposite of the Louvre's Mona Lisa, at the Musée de l'Orangerie you get to enjoy Monet's Water Lillies in peace and quiet. It's written on the wall before you enter: Please enjoy peacefully, or something to that effect. The paintings are eight massive panels, spread out across two oval rooms, painted white, as per Monet's original instructions. The first room features four scenes of the same place, from morning to sunset, the passage of time. The second room features four panels that collectively make up one place, i.e. there is no passage of time. The panels in the second room also feature willow trees, which gives things a bit more perspective. The first room, the one with the passage of time, is just waterlillies: no foreground, no background, just lillies. You'll also find works by Picasso, Sisley, Cézanne, Renoir, Rousseau, and Matisse. I was especially impressed by some of the Matisse works that I saw in Paris. I can't remember specifically if those that impressed me most were at the l'Orangerie or at the d'Orsey, or perhaps the Jacquemart-André. Of the museums listed here, this was perhaps my favorite.