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Finding Inspiration in Paris: Exciting Alternatives to Paris’ Big Museums

At the Rodin Museum, Paris (Stephen Boisvert)

The other week, as the famed Musée D’Orsay was about to celebrate a grand re-opening after two years of renovation, museum workers went on strike. The strike ended fairly quickly, but for a few agonizing days disappointed Impressionistas were left wondering how to get their art fix in Paris.

Which brings up a good point. The Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre are not exclusive guardians of the greatest art ever, despite what your guide book tells you. Yeah, yeah, you want to see the Mona Lisa. But why not get out of the big musées and discover places you never knew you wanted to? I mean, you’re in Paris, for God’s sake. You can’t throw a pavé without hitting beautiful pieces of art. They’re not all in museums. They’re in gardens, on bridges, down hidden streets. Art is everywhere. Walk around and stumble upon it.

Sculpture by Dali (Amelia Wells)

Or if you’re looking for a little more structure, here are a few ideas:

Find Monet elsewhere in Paris. If you want to see what inspired all the lily pad umbrellas and tote bags, head over to the Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries, renovated a few years ago. The enormity of Monet’s paintings alone is stunning. And just on the edge of Paris, near the Bois de Boulogne is the Musée Marmottan Monet, which houses over 100 works by Monsieur Monet.

Rodin’s “Eve”  (Rachel So)

Ever heard of Rodin? There are more than 130 art museums in Paris. So don’t just pin your trip on the two BIG ones. I was never much of a fan of Picasso until I went to the Musée National Picasso. (Sorry, that one is closed for renovations until 2013). Instead, make it a priority to see museums like ones dedicated to Auguste Rodin or Salvador Dalí, depending on your tastes.

Go to the source. Again, you’re in Paris, where the painters painted and the sculptors sculpted. See what inspired them in and around the city. The village of Montmartre was a practical muse. Splurge on a show at the Moulin Rouge, which inspired Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in both painting and posters. Climb up to the windmill where Renoir created his famous painting, Dance at Moulin de la Galette. Some say that painting sparked the Impressionist movement (this is still being debated). Take a day trip to Giverny to get a close-up of Monet’s lilies or a 15-minute train ride to Argenteuil, where Monet created some of his most recognizable paintings. Travel a little further to Auvers-sur-Oise to see the church that Van Gogh made famous.

Monet’s Waterlilies at l’Orangerie (LWY)

Home is where the art is. Paris has many notable addresses of famous artists. In one block of Montmartre alone, you can find Van Gogh’s former apartment, the café where he took breakfast each day, and a former studio of Picasso. You can also hop the Métro to Batignolles in the 17th arrondissement, where Manet and other impressionists captured cafés on canvas. Or if you’re feeling a little wistful, visit one of the big cemeteries, Père-Lachaise or Montparnasse, to see the graves of well-known artistes like Man Ray, Henri Fantin-Latour, Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat. While Père-Lachaise has a lot of sober, ornate tombstones, Montparnasse may be the most artsy cemetery you’ll ever see.

Think local. Seek out smaller galleries. They’re everywhere and you avoid the lines and the elbowing of the big musées. And even better, most are free. You just may discover some new art that one day will hang in d’Orsay.

View From Montmartre (Nicole Gustin)

You can wait in lines to see the classics hung on walls. Or you can experience the art of Paris as the masters did. And really, why not do both?

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Written by Nicole Gustin for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

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Written by Nicole Gustin

Nicole GustinNicole Gustin has a French soul in an American body. A former newspaper journalist, she is also a lifelong writer of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and essays. She has called both Boston and Atlanta home, and keeps returning to Paris until she can settle there permanently.

Website: Just What I Am

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Posted in Arts, Events | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Finding Inspiration in Paris: Exciting Alternatives to Paris’ Big Museums”

  • Peter Hall says:

    When we’re in Paris, we head for the small museums and galleries – on our last visit a Parisian friend told us about the Petit Palais. Unfortunately it was closed but the Grand Palais was open and we discovered Anish Kapoor’s work Levathian – what an experience. We also love going to the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, right next to the Palais du Tokyo.

  • Thanks for this article! Most especially the reminder of how rich our city is in inspiration and the delight of finding art around each little corner, down small streets, in the beautiful gardens, and the many small art galleries all over the city. The gardens are my favorite, Giverny is wonderful, and Musée Marmottan Monet is lovely, including the old house it is in.

  • Kirsten says:

    I also love the Musee Jacquemart Andre! Fun to see how rich art patrons lived in Paris and there’s always a new art exhibit.

  • Bel says:

    Thanks for your reply, yes I read about the PRB exhib I’ve just missed – and it looks like the Tate Britain has one coming up in 2012.

    Rodin is another favourite so I will be sure to visit there! Beautiful!

  • Judy says:

    When a friend and I were in Paris last month, we were thrilled to discover the Marmottan! Had to ask a nearby UPS delivery person where it was though, as we had wandered around a bit trying to find it. lol! The charming Jardin du Ranelagh is right across from it. Lovely place to sit and people watch. Highly recommend the Luxembourg Gardens for some beautiful statuary. Also, I could have stayed at the Musee Rodin all day. Wanted to get to the Delacroix museum but didn’t have time. Next trip!

  • Christine says:

    All of my loves! The Pompidou Centre is probably my fave museum in Paris, closely followed by Orangerie and the Picasso museum in the Marais! Can’t stand battling the crowds at the Louvre.

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks, Bel. I believe there was such an exhibit at d’Orsay but it has ended. I wonder if you’re referring to that…Otherwise, I don’t know where you can find pre-Raphaelite art in Paris. Sorry!

  • Bel says:

    Great article! Any suggestions on where I can find works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood movement in Paris??

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