Yesterday I went to the Musee d’Orsay. I join its association each year and get discounts and free entrance but most importantly, I get to go in at 9:00 am. The rest of the world has to wait for the normal opening time of 9:30.
Being in that spacious hall by yourself is an incredible feeling. Like ownership! If you didn’t know, the d’Orsay was one of the major train stations in Paris. It was closed and eventually remodeled and reopened as a museum. The focus is the impressionist period- the Louvre retaining the antiquities and Rembrandt, etc. The Pompidou took all the modern art. The ‘Orangerie holds the Monet water lilies in specially designed rooms and has other special exhibits and a small permanent collection. This year American Gothic by Grant Wood made the trip over to L’Orangerie from the Art Institute of Chicago for a special American exposition.
I am also an Ami du Louvre (Friend of the…) But I can only take the Louvre in small doses. So the membership allows me to drop in from time to time and see just what I want and not feel like I am wasting a ticket.
However, it’s the d’Orsay that really draws me. To go early when it feels like your personal space. The only other people (usually) are the guards. Guards? Well, they are not docents. Security I guess. Wearing black and with a museum name badge. They all smile and welcome me. In fact, this week when I got to the door where they usually take your ticket or scan your membership card, there was no one there. I saw them all gathered off to the side in a meeting. I waved my membership card at the guy standing who seemed to be in charge and he graciously waved me in. Trusting. Nice.
The d’Orsay also has my favorite café. You might recall I call it my office? I have many conversation exchanges there with friends. The servers know me. It almost feels like Little Italy when I worked in Visalia. They would have the diet coke at my table as soon as they saw me walk in the restaurant. OK, it’s not quite like that! But some do remember m
While waiting for my friend, I wandered through the rooms. Stopped by to see Starry Night by Van Gogh but it was gone. I asked – it’s in Texas right now. That made me think once again of the complexity of arranging painting exhibits. How they get everything in the right place at the right time! And how they know where things are to begin with. Of course, that’s not that difficult for paintings in museums. But I have noticed there are always several paintings from a Collection Privee. Meaning a private collection. I suppose the art auctions houses keep lists? Or the museums have been keeping lists for years.
A couple donated their impressionist collection to the d’Orsay – with the stipulation that their paintings be kept together. The Bonnards from their collection can’t go off to a room dedicated to Bonnard. Nope. I like the idea. Maybe their kids can stop by and see the art altogether like they were visiting the parents’ house. The paintings are related and can stay together.
The other thing I noticed on this visit was how my knowledge of art has grown over the past two years. Now, mind you, I did know my art in general. And I could always recognize the big names. But now I can walk into a room and say – ah, Maurice Denis, oh, Berthe Morisot, a Degas, a Cezanne, and a Manet or a Monet. And of course a Bonnard. And from across the room even! When you drop in often enough, instead of one day where you cram your head full of all the paintings in the museum, you unconsciously begin to notice enough to recognize styles.