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In the 1860s, when Impressionism first made its appearance on the Parisian art scene, Impressionist paintings were considered scandalous. The painters captured modernity by choosing subjects that represented modern life, and by using different painting styles from the ones traditionally taught in Parisian schools. Impressionists also symbolised a Bohemian life that many were opposed to. Let us take a little Parisian tour of the museums where you can admire Impressionist collections, and cafés where Impressionists used to « refaire le monde », in other words, think the world anew.
Many wonderful museums have extensive Impressionist collections in Paris, and I cannot imagine a visit to the city without going to at least one.
The Musée Marmottan Monet has 300 Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings. Among them, Impression Soleil Levant, the piece that gave the movement its final name. Interesting fact: the term “Impressionists” was first used by art critics as an insult!
At the Musée d’Orsay, the whole 5th floor is dedicated to Impressionism, with paintings by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Manet, and many others. Even though many museums place paintings by Manet in the same room as Impressionists, it is interesting to note that Manet refused to associate with these new painters, and refused to exhibit with them in their time. The Musée d’Orsay currently hosts a wonderful exhibition. You can visit Beyond the Stars, The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kadinsky which will run until 25th June. Even if you are only visiting the regular collection, make sure to buy your tickets in advance as queues to the museum get extremely long.
Across the Seine from the Musée d’Orsay, in the Jardin des Tuileries, is the Musée de l’Orangerie, where the impressive Nympheas, Monet’s masterpieces, are kept in two dedicated rooms. Sit in the centre and surround yourself in this river of colours, of greens and blues. I could stay there for hours! On the bottom floor, 144 Impressionist and post-Impressionist pieces are also waiting to be admired.
Cafés were an important social place for Impressionists. There, they painted their modern subjects, discussed techniques with other painters, and discussed art with other artists: writers, poets, musicians… Unfortunately, time and the requirements of urbanism have transformed almost all the cafés, but I still like to walk through the streets often frequented by Monet, Baudelaire or Renoir.
At the Café Guerbois, Emile Zola was a regular, and Manet started coming in 1866, when his studio was at 34 boulevard des Batignolles. Today, a shoe shop at 9 Rue De Clichy has replaced it. It is a known fact that, in 1870, Manet slapped his friend and art critic Edmond Duranty in the Café Guerbois because of an article the latter had written. They had a duel, but thankfully no one got seriously injured, and the two eventually made up.
The Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes at the Place Pigalle was a meeting-place for artists like Manet and Degas around the end of the 1870s. It was destroyed in 2004.
Last but not least, the Brasserie des Martyrs. It is the only place that has not been destroyed, and is in fact still a place where art is discussed. It is now called the Divan du Monde (the world’s sofa) and is a cabaret-restaurant at 75 Rue des Martyrs and is just a short walk from our Sacré-Coeur Charme Residence.
Enjoy your time in Paris, the city that witnessed and contributed to the development of French Impressionism!