I have had the opportunity to visit many museums in my life, but I believe my favorite will always be the Musée d’Orsay here in Paris. It started life as a train station built on the left bank of the Seine to bring people into the center of Paris for the great Exposition of 1900, but by 1939 its short platforms could no longer handle the longer trains of the day. It has had several uses over time from a mailing center during WW II to being used several times a movie set.
The 1970’s were a period of indecision over its fate until finally the idea was born to turn it into an Art Museum that would cover the period from 1848 to 1914. There currently wasn’t any museum that focused on this incredibly important period of French Art. The Louvre leaves off at about 1848 and the National Museum of Modern Art at the George Pompidou Centre starts about 1915.
It officially opened in 1986 as one of the most significant art museums in the world and it houses the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces anywhere with some of the best works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, Van Gogh and many others.
When I arrived in Paris I bought a membership to this museum. I have visited Manet’s 1862 scandalous “Olympia” and “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” or Luncheon on the Grass several times and I have studied Cezanne’s “The Card Players” and “Apples ands Oranges”.
Best of all for me was to stand in one spot and revel in many Van Gogh paintings including “Starry Night over the Rhone”, “The church at Auvers”, “Portrait of Dr. Gachet”, L’Arlesienne and my favorite self-portrait.
Several years ago, as many of you know, I hid an image of a painting by Santa Fe’s own Alfred Morang in the Musee d’Orsay. I did it in honor of a man who loved the art of the Impressionist and Post Impressionist, but who never made it to Paris before he tragically died in fire on Canyon Road in 1958. I said at the time that it would take a jackhammer to find it and that is exactly what they used during the 25 year remodel of the museum. The image I left then may still be there under the floor, but I did not want to take a chance so I did it again. This time it will take more than a jackhammer and if you are planning a visit let me know and I will show you exactly where it is and you will understand that it will probably be there as long as the museum is standing. This time I used an image of one of Alfred’s paintings that I used to own and is now in the possession of dear friends.