Our three-hour Musée d’Orsay tour examines the rich 19th- and early 20th-century collections of this world-class museum. In the company of an art historian, we'll dive into one of the best collections of Impressionist art in Paris and learn about the major art movements of the period—the Barbizon school, Realism, and Impressionism—as well as their most celebrated players, including Monet, Degas, and Courbet. This tour is an excellent complement to our Crash Course Louvre Tour and our more specialized study of Louvre French Masters Tour.
We’ll begin the tour by first considering the museum's unique structure. First constructed by architect Victor Laloux as a rail station, the site was preserved as a historical building before opening as a museum in 1986. Next we’ll dive into the art, concentrating primarily on painting. Following a roughly chronological trajectory, we'll begin on the ground floor with the works of the Barbizon school and Corot. Emphasizing nature and atmosphere, these artists made a break from the expectations of previous schools and were freed from focusing on antiquity and classicism. From here, we'll move on to the works of Realist artists like Courbet and Manet, where we'll examine the new techniques and ideas that they introduced and how it inspired the future Impressionists.
We’ll then move to the works of Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Pissarro, where we’ll discuss the spread of Impressionism and its radical departure from traditional schools of painting. Continuing on to the likes of Cézanne and Van Gogh, we'll look at the influence Impressionism had on subsequent artists, and how it gradually morphed into several different movements such as Neo-impressionism, Fauvism, Pointillism, and Cubism. We'll wrap up with a look at these movements and the artists they produced, including Matisse, Braque, and Gauguin. By the end of our time together we'll have a robust understanding of these major art movements and how they contributed to the formation of modern art.
What kind of art is in the Musée d’Orsay?
The Musée d’Orsay collection contains works roughly from 1848-1914, some of the art movements include Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Symbolism, and Pointilism and such artists as Manet, Courbet, Corot, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Gaugain, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Seurat.
There are 7 in my family but your website won't allow me to include more than 6 participants. Can't you make an exception?
Unfortunately not. The group size restriction is imposed by the museum. Please contact us to work out an alternative solution.
When is the best time to visit Musée d’Orsay?
The Musée d’Orsay is very busy and not as spacious as the Louvre. We highly recommend visiting the museum when it is open late on Thursday evenings and we schedule our Musée d’Orsay and Paris in the 19th Century walk for late afternoon on Thursdays for this purpose.
Is there a long line to enter the museum? Can I "skip the line"?
Context pre-purchases tickets to the museum (unless you will have a Museum Pass), so you will not be required to wait in any ticket line. There is a security check through which all visitors to the museum are required to pass, and there is sometimes a line for this. Because we have advance tickets, we have access to a special ticket holder security line, which is very short. Museum Pass holders also have access to this special line.
What is covered on your Musée d’Orsay walk?
Each docent leads his or her walk in a different way, however, in most cases you will start with some history of the building, look at some of the earlier 18th century art movements such as Romanticism and Realism, then look at some impressionist and post impressionist masters. This is not a solely impressionist walk as the collection holds a great variety of wonderful art.
Is the Musée d’Orsay wheelchair accessible?
The Musée d’Orsay is wheelchair accessible, and offers wheelchair rental. There are elevators throughout the museum and you can print a wheelchair accessibility guide from the site. We are happy to custom-design visits to the Musée d’Orsay for visitors with mobility concerns.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins near the museum; your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map, and 24/7 phone number. It will end just outside the museum.
Is this tour appropriate for children?
For children we recommend our shorter Musée d'Orsay with Kids Tour
, which is led by scholars specially trained in educating children.