To kick off the winter season, talented illustrator Emma Jacobs is giving three lucky HiP Paris Blog readers copies of her beautiful book on Paris’s off-the-beaten-track museums – and we can’t get enough of it. To win your very own copy, head over to our Instagram account. Winners will be announced on Wednesday 30th before midnight (Paris time). Good luck, lovely readers!
The Offbeat Museums of Paris
Paris brims with museums and world-renowned galleries, but the most atmospheric cultural spots are actually the smaller, harder-to-find venues. As illustrator Emma Jacobs shows us in her latest book, The Little(r) Museums of Paris, the city’s numerous hôtel particuliers and artist ateliers offer up the real charm. See some of my top picks from Emma’s beautiful book below.
Musée Gustave Moreau
One of our favorites is Musée Gustave Moreau, named after the great 19th-century French Symbolist painter. Known for his biblical and mythological works, he was admired by his contemporaries for the mystical aspects of his pieces. His wild imagination influenced the Surrealist painters, who were inspired by his inclusion of the incomprehensible and the unconscious.
In 1895, he entrusted the conversion of his family home into a museum to architect Albert Lafon and left the property, as well as all its contents, to the State upon his death in 1897. After a year and a half of renovations to restore them to their original state, the six rooms on the ground floor were re-opened in January 2015. Paintings of note include Narcisse, famous for its seductive representation of the relationship between human and nature, and his preparatory works for Léda (a legend that often served as inspiration for the female nude) and Fée aux Griffons (representing the inaccessibility of the female body).
Visitors can discover the artist’s apartment on the first floor, left exactly as it was when he died, while on the second and third floors his grand and light-filled former studios showcase more of his works. Look out for his two masterpieces, Jupiter et Sémélé and L’Apparition. The former features the allegories of death and pain, which represented the tragic essence of life for Moreau, while the latter, which features Salome, was probably a result of his frequent opium hallucinations.
The works of another of France’s great artists, Auguste Rodin, are displayed in the magnificent backdrop of Hôtel Biron. The manor boasts grandiose columns, arches, and sweeping staircases as well as subtler intricate moldings and floor-to-ceiling windows. Bought by the State in 1911 while Rodin was residing here, he refused to leave and bequeathed his entire collection to the country on condition that it remained his home for life.
After a three-year renovation, visitors can now admire even more of
the artist’s works, and also enjoy new exhibitions about his time at Hôtel Biron, his antique collection, and 50 paintings from his private Van Gogh and Munch collection. Perhaps the museum’s most attractive feature, especially when the weather plays ball, is the beautifully kept three-hectare garden. Visitors are free to roam the grounds, admiring not only famous works such as Le Penseur (The Thinker), but also the rose garden and peaceful arbor.
Mona Bismarck American Center
If you prefer your art more modern, then head to the Mona Bismarck American Center on the banks of the Seine. Mona Bismarck (who was married five times, including to the grandson of the former German chancellor) was most famous for her marriage to Harrison Williams, one of America’s richest men in the 1920s. A fashion icon and muse, she was sung about by Cole Porter, painted by Dalí, and photographed by Cecil Beaton. Following Harrison’s death in 1953, Mona Bismarck gifted the house to the State, intending it to become a showcase for 20th– and 21st-century American art and culture in Europe.
The rooms of the 19th-century mansion are remarkable for their Chinese art, ornate gilding, and crystal chandeliers, an indication of the luxury in which Bismarck lived. A handful of works are exhibited in each room and visitors are free to walk around and get close to the pieces. The center stages several exhibitions each year and holds other events including film screenings, concerts, and discussions centered on American culture.
Musée Gustave Moreau, 14 rue de la Rochefoucauld 75009 Paris
Musée Rodin, 77 rue de Varenne 75007 Paris
Mona Bismarck American Center, 34 Avenue de New York 75016 Paris
Other villa museums in Paris worth checking out:
Musée Marmottan Monet, 2 rue Louis-Boilly 75016 Paris
Musée Nissim de Camondo, 63 rue de Monceau 75008 Paris
Musée Jacquemart-André, 158 boulevard Haussmann 75008 Paris
Villa Vassilieff, Chemin de Montparnasse, 21 Avenue du Maine 75015 Paris
Musée Cernuschi, 7 avenue Vélasquez 75008 Paris
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Written by Neil Kreeger for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.