Musée de l’Orangerie was found in 1852 to shelter the orange trees that lined up the Tuileries Palace garden. Prior to the construction of the museum in Paris, the orange trees featured in the Louvre Museum’s Grande Galerie. At the behest of former French President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the museum was constructed on the terrace of the garden by the Seine River as per the blueprint of French Architect Firmin Bourgeois. It was formerly known as the ‘waterfront terrace’ by the rue de Rivoli Street. The structure is identical to a greenhouse and its façade facing the Seine comprises of glass which lets inside heat and light.
Opposite to southern façade across the Street is windowless which was constructed that way to avoid wind busts from up north. The foyers of the l’Orangerie Museum resides on the west and east side, which was designed by the Italian-born French architect cum designer Louis Visconti. He was also commissioned to partake in the renovations at Musée du Louvre. The entrance is replete with columns, which resemble the decors of Tuileries Palace and topped off with a triangular sculpture that represents cornucopias. The sculpture was the creation of Charles Gallois-Poignant.
l’Orangerie became a state property after the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the French empire in 1870 and the fire which took place in the Tuileries Palace a year later. The museum continued to be the custodian of orange trees and held events relating to horticulture, music, fine arts, banquets, and dog shows until 1922.
Following WWI, radical changes took place as if by fate in the museum in Paris. In 1921, the city capital went on to assign the building to the Ministry of Fine Arts alongside Jeu de Paume gallery constructed in 1862 on the waterfront terrace. The plan was to give exhibit space to display the masterful artworks. It was the President Georges Clemenceau who suggested that Claude Monet’s ‘Nymphéas’ shall be donated to Paris upon completion of the mural instead of placing it in Musée Rodin’s courtyard.
The donation of ‘Water Lilies’ became formal in the year 1922. Claude Monet had spent considerable amount of time ideating the design of the mural alongside Camille Lefèvre. At the end of it all, up to eight panels each ranging two meters height and spanning 91 meters long were placed in two oval rooms that embody infinity.
The orientation of the mural contrasts them in sun’s path and by the Paris’s axis from Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre Museum. The atrium of Musée de l’Orangerie gives accesses to both rooms and also marks the transition from outside to the visitors. The sunlight emitting via the ceiling would immerse the visitors in a graceful state all thanks to the rich planning behind the placement of Water Lilies as intended by the artist.
Later in 1927, Clemenceau opened the Musée Claude Monet that was annexed to the Musée du Luxembourg and was dubbed as ‘Musée National de l’Orangerie des Tuileries’. Fast forward to the Noughties period (2000 to 2006), the museum underwent a transformation with a goal of hanging the European painting collections of Paul Guillaume and Jean Walter without altering the Water Lilies rooms.
The rooms to house European collections were added on the basement of the museum’s north building. The authorities also made temporary exhibit floors and one apiece auditorium, education space and library as part of the renovation. The renovations also took cues from the ‘Yellow Ditches wall’ built to protect the Tuileries Palace as of 1566.
The l‘Orangerie museum reopened in 2006 after the renovations and got attached with Musée d’Orsay’s public establishment. The museum has been exhibiting fine arts collections ever since, concentrating on specific artists and impressionist era. Earlier this year, the museum exhibited ‘Tokyo-Paris’ a fine collection of Japanese artworks much to the pleasure of the visitors.
Many of the sculptures which surrounds the building as of now includes ‘Grand Commandement blanc’ by French Sculptor Alain Kirili and ‘Eve’, ‘Méditation avec bras’, and ‘L’Ombre’ by Auguste Rodin. In addition, ‘Le Baiser’ by Rodin resides at the museum’s entranceway the sculpture, which is also known as ‘The Kiss’. At the back of the museum resides ‘Reclining Nude’ a cast sculpture by Englishman Henry Spencer Moore and ‘Le Lion au Serpent’ by Frenchmann Antoine-Louis Barye, which resides on the terrace.
Although ‘Water Lilies’ by Monet is the main reason for the footfalls to the l‘Orangerie museum in Paris, there are other timeless artworks too which enthrall visitors including those of Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Auguste Renoir to name three.