For my blog today I am not showcasing an artist or a painting but a small museum , the Musée Marmottan Monet, which I visited last week when I was in Paris and I hope that for any of you who are intending to visit the French capital and want to take in some of its artistic heritage you will make time to visit this museum. I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. The museum is situated at 2 rue Louis Boilly in the vibrant and colourful 16th arondissement and is easy to get to as there are two nearby Metro stations, La Muette and Ranelagh.
I have often advocated that when one goes to London one should not always head for the major art galleries such as the National Gallery or the two Tate galleries as they are so big that one has no hope of seeing everything in one session and trying to often means that you skimp on the time each painting deserves. A better plan of action if your time is limited is to go and visit one of the smaller galleries. In London one has the Wallace Collection, the Courtauld Gallery and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, to mention just a few. So to practice what I preach, when I was in Paris last week I didn’t revisit the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, instead I visited, for the first time, the Musée Marmottan Monet and it was unquestionably a most worthwhile visit.
The building was originally constructed as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Valmy and a few years later was sold to Jules Marmottan which on his death along with all his belongings was bequeathed to his son Paul. Paul Marmottan later built a small pavilion in the courtyard as the original building was too small to house all of his paintings, furniture and bronzes. Paul Marmottan bequeathed his home and collection to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which opened up the house and collection as the Museum Marmottan in 1934.
If you like the work of the Impressionists and in particular the works of Claude Monet then look no further as this museum houses the largest collection of Monet’s work in the world and this is partly due to the fact that Monet’s youngest son Michel donated his father’s paintings from Giverny to the museum. The building originally had two floors, the ground floor and an upper floor but to exhibit all the works they had to build a large underground room. A number of bequests to the museum over the years have filled the building with beautiful and priceless art treasures.
The Duhem Collection was bequeathed to the museum by the daughter of the French painter, Henri Duhem. These included works by Boudin, Caillebotte, Corot, Gaugin, Monet and Renoir. In 1980 an amazing group of illuminations spanning the 13th to 16th century was donated to the museum by Daniel Wildenstein. The collection is exceptional for both the quantity and quality of the works. There are over three hundred miniatures. In 1996 the museum received an extraordinary donation from Annie Rouart. Her husband was Denis Rouart, the grandson of Berthe Morisot and Eugène Manet. Among the paintings given to the museum by Annie Rouart were masterpieces by Degas, Manet, Monet and Renoir and of course works by the famous female Impressionist Berthe Morisot.
For those of you who love the work of Berthe Morisot, and I include myself in that particular fan club, there is currently running a brilliant exhibition of her work. It is housed in the basement. It opened on March 8th and runs until July 1st 2012. It presents the first major retrospective of the work of Berthe Morisot to be held in Paris for almost half a century. One hundred and fifty paintings, pastels, watercolours and drawings in red chalk and charcoal, from museums and private collections all over the world, retrace the career of the Impressionist movement’s best-known woman painter. Works which have been selected for the exhibition cover the whole of Berthe Morisot’s artistic career, from her earliest works around 1860, to her untimely death at the age of 54, in 1895. In my next few blogs I will feature a few of the many paintings I saw when I walked around the museum.