They might be small dots the Paris tourist maps and they show up on a zoomed-in Google map. Yup, they’re right there. It took me a while to “get it” but it changed my perspective on Paris forever.
I know, a delicious lunch in the beautiful dining room at the Musée d’Orsay, the Orsay’s excellent new presentation of the Impressionists, the dumbfounding scale of some of the Louvre’s historic paintings…and on and on. Hard to deny the awesome magnitude of these collections.
But the intimacy to be found in exploring some exceptional painters’ actual ateliers and homes that have become part of the National Museums of France and the City of Paris is an experience to remember. Here are a few to consider:
Musée Jacquemart-André is centrally located in the 8th Arrondissement on Bd. Haussmann and hosts a permanent collection plus regular rotations of special exhibits of travelling international shows. The range of these exhibits is wonderful as is the Permanent Collection. All of this is housed in the former residence of Edouard-André and Nélie Jacquemart, an astonishing enough mansion even without the art. Please plan on lunch here. The dining room is spacious, the service and food very good. If you can, try to get a terrace table. Be sure not to pass up the dessert selection. This musée can be the major event of a day. Advance tickets available online. (http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en
Musée Nissim De Camondo, also in the 8th Arr. near the lovely Parc Monceau offers another glimpse into the grand residences of the Paris gentry and story of the family resonates during a visit. A grand staircase, a curved library, modern bathrooms for the era and an amazing kitchen. You’ll get the flavor of how these people lived, and what tragedies can befall. madparis.fr/en/museums/musee-nissim-de-camondo/
Musee Nissim De Camondo
In Montmartre there are two museums I would suggest to you.
First is the Musée National Gustave Moreau in the 9th Arrondissement.
Like some artists and philanthropists, Moreau bequeathed his home and studio to the State and we are the luckier for it. When you enter the apartments on the street level you get a look at the narrow art-lined corridors leading off to purposed rooms such as the artist’s office, study, etc. But the grand surprise is upstairs in the atelier with its wonderful scale, built-in print storage cabinetry and large paintings. Then climb the dramatic spiral staircase for even more surprises. It is a heady experience. (http://musee-moreau.fr)
Finally, though I could add many more to this list, climb the hill up to the Musée de Montmartre, in the shadow of Basilica Sacré Coeur. With all its history both as an early Paris agrarian zone and an area once torn by armed conflict it is little surprise that this became a place that artists could afford to ply their skills. In the musée you can visit the atelier-apartment of Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo and learn about the cabaret called Le Chat Noir. A great window into Paris’ Bohemian life. The Permanent Collection includes historically significant work by Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani as well. (http://museedemontmartre.fr/en/ )
Once you get started on these small musées in Paris you’ll want to see more. Just a few more to mention are Musée Maillol (excellent restaurant) https://www.museemaillol.com/en Le Petit Palais (decent cafe) http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en, Musée Marmottan Monet http://www.marmottan.fr/uk/ and Musée Cernuschi http://www.cernuschi.paris.fr/en. There are more, of course, and you’ll find them.
Bon journée ! Special thanks to Parisian friend M. Plant for lots of tips.