Some say Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris is the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism. Well, not quite. It did not feel divine.
It’s definitely a joy to troll along two hundred square meters of Monet’s canvases. I could come close within inches to the rounded surface of the landscapes he adored and worked on for over 30 years of his life.
I could sit in the middle of the oval room and be surrounded by the 360° panoramic view of pond water with lilies, willow branches, reflections of trees and clouds. Just surrender to ‘the illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore’, as the artist put it.
Picnic at the pond
It is a monumental set. But not supernal. Water Lilies, also known as Nymphéas are more down-to-earth than high-minded. I think I could have a picnic there, in Orangerie. To hunker down with a checkered blanket, a bottle of Pinot Grigio and some sandwiches. Even take a nap…
Generally, looking at whatever Monet’s landscape painting I desire to be there right away. The French countryside is irresistible. But the painter’s garden in Giverny was something else. It was his great project for over 40 years. He designed it and then immortalised it in hundreds of paintings.
Gardens as an obsession
I admire huge pond landscapes from the Orangerie but love smaller close-ups like this one as well. There is also a different perspective of the pond, with a view to the dense vegetation around the Japanese footbridge.
Forget the Giverny. Monet painted gardens everywhere he could, especially in his family estates: Vétheuil, Argenteuil, Sainte-Adresse. If a garden was his sanctuary then flowers were his gentle souls. In his own words ‘nothing in the whole world is of interest to me but my paintings and my flowers’.
These two subjects defined the artist’s life and work. How lucky man he was!
Musée de l’Orangerie
Jardin de Tuileries
Place de la Concorde (on the side of the river Seine)
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm daily except Tuesdays, 1 May, the morning of 14 July, and 25 December
Under 18: free
Multimedia tour: €5.00
Free entry for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month.