Musée de l’Orangerie

France

Located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to Place de la Concorde in Paris stands Musée de l’Orangerie, an art museum most famous for its exhibition of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies; an impressive series of giant panels full of colours and brushstrokes that depict Monet’s flower garden in Giverny. The masterpiece spans eight panels, each two metres high and a total length of 91 metres. The panels are arranged in two oval rooms that form the infinity symbol and allows natural light to enter through the ceiling; a technique Monet suggested that will immerse visitors in a state of grace. The oval rooms were strategically situated on an east-west orientation to place them along the historical axis of Paris which runs from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre.

The building was first built as a winter shelter for the orange trees in the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1852. The building was built like a greenhouse as the southern façade is made of glass to let the light enter, while the opposite side has almost no windows to block the northern winds. Then, from 1871 to 1922, the building was used to host cultural events like music shows, art exhibitions, banquets and contests. Eventually, Georges Clemenceau, former president of the council for the Fine Arts, suggested installing the Water Lilies panels Monet was painting.

Various masterpieces collected by French architect Jean Walter and French art dealer Paul Guillaume are in the basement level of the museum and include works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine and Maurice Utrillo.

Musée d’Orsay

France

On the Left Bank of the Seine River in Paris rest the Musée d’Orsay, a museum devoted to arts between 1848-1914. The museum is housed in a former train station, Gare d’Orsay, that was constructed by Victor Laloux for the 1900 World Fair and was booming with commuters. During and after World War II, the station became deserted and was no longer used, which led the city to have plans to tear it down in 1960. The building, however, was saved as the city decided to convert it into a museum to showcase Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and collections of sculptures and decorative arts.

Musée d’Orsay is one of the largest art museums in Europe and hosts the most extensive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world. Notable artists whose works rest in the Orsay are Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Alfred Sisley, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.

The Orsay is also recognized for its colossal clocks that double as windows giving the museum an overall allegorical theme of a window through time to the Age of Liberalism when impressionism was taking a stand.

The Louvre

France

At the right bank of the Seine River in Paris sits the world’s largest museum and one of the most popular with 8 million visitors a year. Enter the museum through a massive glass pyramid in the courtyard that takes you underground to the museum’s central lobby. The famous glass pyramid elegantly combines traditional style with modern architecture to show the timelessness of the museum. The Louvre is housed in the 60,600 square metre Louvre Palace with approximately 38,000 objects from the 6th century B.C. to the 19th century A.D. The Louvre Palace was originally built as a fortress in 1190, but when it lost its defensive function, it was reconstructed in 1546 by Francis I, a former king of France, into a royal palace for the French kings.

Through the years the palace became a display for the royal collection and a place for art academies and institutions. The museum officially opened to the public on August 10, 1793, and at the time, only had 537 paintings. Only three years later, in 1796, the museum was closed due to structural problems, but in 1801 it was reopened by Napolean who renamed the museum Museé Napoléan and expanded the collection. Eventually, in 1815, when Napolean was renounced from his throne, around 5,000 artworks were returned to their original country and the museum reverted back to its original name; the Louvre.

The Louvre is massive and it is nearly impossible to see the entirety of the works in a single visit. The museum is divided into eight departments, which include: Egyptian Antiques; Near Eastern Antiques; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiques; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Art; Paintings; Prints and Drawings. Within these departments, you can find Egyptian artifacts, Greek and Roman sculptures, paintings by historic European artists and crown jewels from French royalty. Of course, the most famous work in the museum is the Mona Lisa by Leonard da Vinic; a 55 cm by 77 cm portrait of a subtle smiling plain female covered by bullet-proof glass and surrounded by guards. The extra protection is the result of the precious portrait being stolen in 1911. Fortunately, it was shortly recovered in 1913.

The Louvre is unquestionably one of the most impressive art galleries in the world as it is full of life, history and character.

British Museum

England

The British Museum located in London, England is among the largest and most comprehensive museums in the world. The museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture with around 8 million permanent works. The museum was established in 1753 after physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane, gave King George II his collection of over 71,000 objects after his death in return for £20,000 to his heirs. The museum opened to the public January 15, 1759, and became the first national public museum in the world. The number of artifacts in the museum has grown along with the expansion of British colonization and the number of visitors a year has increased from 5,000 to 6 million.

Natural History Museum

England

The Natural History Museum located in London, England displays various life and earth-science specimens from different periods of history. There are about 80 million items in the museum and five main collections that exhibit plants, insects, minerals, fossils and animals. The museum contains many specimens collected by Charles Darwin and is widely known for its dinosaur skeletons and skeleton of a blue whale that hangs from the ceiling. The ornate terracotta building is extensively detailed and is typical of high Victorian architecture. The museum has been called “a cathedral of nature” due to its high-arched ceiling and terracotta mouldings that are meant to represent the past and present diversity of nature.