Standing in front of the Water Lilies in the sunlit rooms of the Musée de L’Orangerie feels quite like Claude Monet’s quote. Here time seems to move slower as you attempt to take in the naturalistic vastness of the artist’s famed work. Starting from 1883, the French painter, one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, lived in his home in Giverny. Surrounded by the ethereal natural beauty of his flower gardens, he was inspired to paint his famed work Water Lilies, a series of approximately 250 oil paintings, some of which now adorn the curved walls of the museum. Paris is of course, well known for its vast array of museums and art galleries, but what the Musée de L’Orangerie offers visitors is a chance to experience Monet’s work just as he had envisioned it, making it one of our favourite spots to visit in the French capital.
The Musée de L’Orangerie houses eight of the great Water Lilies compositions by Monet, created from panels which are all 2 metres high and span 91 metres in length, assembled side by side. The paintings are hung on the curved walls of two elliptical rooms, as specified by Monet himself, and the entire museum has been designed according to the wishes of the artist. Even though the Water Lilies were displayed after Monet’s death, the artist had meticulously planned the forms, volumes, positioning, the rhythm and spaces between the various panels. He even though of the flow of natural light from the roof that would illuminate his works of art.
As you walk through the Orangerie, you are overcome by a feeling of calm and tranquility, as though you are taking a walk through Monet’s gardens yourself. The lack of artificial lighting and the natural sunlight from above showering the Water Lilies in a warm glow adds to the feeling of being one with nature. The layout and design of the museum give viewers a sense of infinity and endlessness as they walk through the oblong rooms, or, as Monet described it, the “illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore.”
The Musée de L’Orangerie also houses a vast collection of post-Impressionist works from the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collections, with works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Chaïm Soutine, Marie Laurencin, and more. As the home to eight of Monet’s Water Lilies, the Musée de L’Orangerie is a transcendent artistic experience that gives visitors an understanding of the artist’s vision like few other exhibits manage to do. And gives them an opportunity to place themselves within the environs of Monet’s subject.