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A Guide of Paris Museums for Tourists and Art Lovers
Louvre Museum

(Metro: Louvre or Palais Royal). Open daily except Tuesday, 9 - 5:15 PM. Free on Sunday, and very crowded. This museum is the largest palace in the world and houses a collection of over 208,000 works of art. French kings lived oh this site from the 13th century but most of the present palace was built by Napoleon. He converted it into a museum after the Revolution. Inside are treasures not to be believed.

The Louvre is divided into three sections: Denon, Sully, and Richelieu, and each of its 3 floors is color-coded to help guide you through. Currently, most of the treasures of interest to tourists will be in the Denon and Sully sections.

Entry to the Louvre is through a new glass pyramid in the central courtyard. This pyramid takes one two floors below ground level where you purchase tickets. During the construction of the pyramid, remnants of a medieval palace with a moat were uncovered and these remnants have been incorporated into the new design on the entry level. On this entry level one will find a huge underground mall plus a very good food court. This section is accessible from the museum, or before/after hours, from an entrance on Rue de Rivoli.

Back to the Louvre: The main attractions for tourists are Winged Victory, a statue from 2 centuries before the birth of Christ and The Mona Lisa protected behind bulletproof glass. In the same gallery with Mona Lisa are additional paintings by Da Vinci, as well as masterpieces by Titian and Raphael. Nearby galleries contain a superb collection of paintings by Rembrandt. Visit the Galerie d'Apollon for the Royal Jewels. In the Greek Antiquities galleries on the ground floor stands Venus de Milo. Also on the ground floor in another wing are 2 Michelangelo Slaves. Visit the Egyptian section for some of the most impressive Egyptian art outside Egypt, including the Seated Scribe. And of course, every major artist up to the 19th century is represented with major works.

A recommendation: Enter the Louvre at 9 AM, pick up a free self-guide map, rush directly upstairs to see "Mona Lisa" before the crowds and tours make their way there. Afterwards return to the beginning. This way you'll avoid most of the heavy crowds around the most famous works of art.

Musee de l'Orangerie

(Metro: Concorde) Daily except Tuesday 9:45 - 5:15. This museum has undergone extensive renovation. It's one of those "perfect-size" museums with a major collection of the Impressionists on the 2nd floor. All of the paintings are superb and the museum is a delight to navigate. However great that may be, the main reason for a visit is to see Monet's exquisite "Nymphaes (Water Lilies)" which were painted between 1890-1921. They are a series of very large works of flickering light striking lily pads and water. These paintings completely surround two large oval rooms on the ground floor galleries. Monet, himself, presented them to the State of France, with the provision that they not be exhibited until his death. Whether one really appreciates art or not, it is impossible to enter these galleries without being totally overwhelmed. Don't miss them!

Jeu de Paume Museum

(Metro: Concorde) This museum whose exterior exactly matches the Musee d l'Orangerie, is now closed for a complete restoration and enlargement. When it reopens, it will become a museum for temporary exhibitions. The famous Impressionist paintings it used to house have moved across the river to the new Musee d'Orsay.

Musee d'Orsay

(Metro: Solferino) Daily except Monday 10-5:15. Tue Eve 9:15 PM. This new museum, housed in a beautiful converted train station and hotel opened to great critical acclaim in 1986. It is dedicated to 19th century art... Millet, Corot, Daumier, Courbet, Delacroix... as well as 2 Americans, Mary Cassatt and Whistler ("Portrait of the Artist's Mother"). The gem of the collection, however, is located on the 3rd level. Here you will find the most important collection of outstanding masterpieces by all the Impressionist artists. These paintings were formerly housed in the Jeu De Paume Museum.

The d'Orsay museum has 3 levels, and the paintings are hung primarily in chronological order. Because of this, some of the greatest early masterpieces of the Impressionists are separated and located on the first level. Unfortunately, to locate them, one has to wander through a maze of confusing gallery spaces with no arrows as a guide. And the art in the majority of these rooms would only interest the most dedicated French art scholar. (It is this writer's opinion that the Musee d'Orsay is the most confusing museum in the world to walk through, especially if one has limited time).

This museum also houses a fabulous restaurant, which is located in a former ballroom of the hotel. It is very popular and the prices are very reasonable. If you have time, do have lunch here, but plan on 1 1/2 to 2 hours. To visit the Musee D'Orsay, one can expect to wait in line, no matter what time of the day the visit. (This writer recommends that you go at 10 AM... and immediately rush to the 3rd level to see the Impressionists before the crowds get there. Then see more of the museum if you desire).

Musee de Cluny

(Metro: St. Michel or Odeon) Daily except Tue 9:45-12:45, 2-5:15. This museum contains some beautiful medieval art. The museum surrounds a walled courtyard and the building is one of the two Gothic residences of the 15th century left in Paris. It is devoted to Church Arts and crafts of the middle ages. The most famous treasure here, displayed in a circular room on the 2nd floor is "The Lady And The Unicorn" tapestry. During recent excavations around the Cluny, it was discovered that in 200 BC, a Roman Bath stood on the site. Today, much of the baths have been uncovered and they are well preserved.

Grand Palais

(Metro: Invalides) An extremely handsome building with a steel and glass roof. Special exhibitions are housed here. Always check to see just what is being shown, because the exhibitions are usually major.

Petit Palais

(Metro: Invalides) Directly across the street from the Grand Palais, and a small version of it. Daily except Mon/Tue 10 - 5:20. This museum contains drawings by Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Daumier, and Courbet.

Palais de Tokyo

(Metro: Trocadero) Daily except Tue 10-5:45... 13 Avenue Pres. Wilson. A decent display of Post Impressionists, including Seurat and Bonnard, and a frescoed room by Dufy. Special Exhibits also held here.

Delacroix Museum

(Metro: St. Germain). Daily except Tue 9:45-12-30,2-5:15 The painter Delacroix had his studio here from 1857-1863. The rooms are hung with sketches, lithographs, watercolors, and oils. The works are not major, but the studio will be very interesting for an artist. There are personal mementos here, including his paint box, palette, and easel. The museum in located on a small street beside St. Germain Church... 6 Rue de Furstenberg.

Rodin Museum

(Metro: Varenne) Daily except Monday 10-6. Located across from Invalides. Rodin is credited with freeing French sculpture from Classicism, and is the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. He lived and had his studio in this mansion. The house is filled with his works - the greatest collection in the world, including "The Thinker, Gates of Hell, Burghers of Calais". There are lovely gardens at the back with a refreshment stand.

Musee de Moderne Art

(Metro: Lena) Daily except Mon 10-5:45. The original collection has moved to the Pompidou. This building now houses experimental French art.

Musee Carnavalet

(Metro: St. Paul) Daily except Mon/Tue 10-5:40. This museum has been completely restored and is located near the Place de Voges across the square from the Hugo Museum at 22 Rue de Sevigne. It is devoted to the history of Paris, and contains rich material on the Revolution. Some of the interesting relics include locks of hair of Marie Antoinette, the shaving articles of Louis XVI and the palette of Daumier. The building dates from 1545. All information is in French, but one can buy a guide in English. The staff is very pleasant.

Musee Picasso

(Metro: St. Paul) Daily, except Tuesday 10 - 5:15. This museum opened in 1985 and houses the personal paintings of Picasso, which his heirs donated to France to pay "inheritance taxes". It is within walking distance of the Pompidou Museum and the Carnavalet Museum, but is rather difficult to find.

Marmotton Museum

(Metro: La Muette... Walk from metro and signs will direct you to the museum at #2 Rue Louis Boilly, just off Bois de Boulogne). Open daily except MONDAY 10-6. One visits this museum to see Monet in depth. The more that 130 Monet paintings on exhibit were a gift from the artist's son. There are also paintings of his Impressionist Friends that Monet personally collected. In recent years, several of the paintings were stolen, including "Impression, Sunrise", the painting that gave the Impressionism Art Movement its' name. It has now been returned. If you like Monet you must see this museum.

Musee Jacquemart-Andre

(Metro: St. Philippe du Roule). Daily except Mon/Tue 1:30-7:30. This is a 19th century town house at #158 Blvd. Hausmann. The salons are gilded and elegant, and there is an impressive winding staircase. Represented are Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Tiepolo, Watteau, and Boucher. Make the trip only if you have time to kill... which is not likely in Paris.

Maillol Museum

On Rue de Grenelle. This new museum opened in 1995. It is comprised of 3 adjoining buildings (from 1750) located behind the French National Monument "Fountain of the 3 Seasons". The renovation of the buildings created a light-filled, graceful structure of stone, wood, and glass. There are 27 galleries containing the full range of Maillol's sculptural masterpieces (including all the famous nudes). In addition, there are works by Maillol's contemporaries: Matisse, Bonnard, Gauguin, Redon, Dufy and Duchamp. This museum was the dream (and realization) of Maillol's model and muse, Dina Vierny.
About the Author
Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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