Orsay Museum

History of the Orsay Museum

The Orsay Palace: 1838 – 1871

Instead of the Orsay museum, there used to be the Orsay Palace: built from 1810 to 1838 by the architect Jacques-Charles Bonnard, it sheltered the “Cour des Comptes” until it burnt down during the Paris Commune in 1871.

An academic-style train station: 1900 – 1939

Instead of the ruins of the Orsay Palace, the city of Paris decided to build a train station and a hotel to host the visitors of the 1900 Universal Exhibition. This train station continues the end stop of the Austerlitz train station. From 1898 to 1900, the architect Victor Laloux (1850-1937) supervises the construction of the train station for the “Compagnie du Chemin de fer” from Paris to Orléans.

From 1900 to 1939, the Orsay train station became the main station for the south-western French lines. The train station was extremely modern for the era: it only worked with electric trains.

The building has an academic style. A metallic structure carries the windows, hidden behind stonewalls of an eclectic sculpted style. On the Anatole France docks, there are seven arcades with seven metallic domes. There are framed by the large clocks’ pavilions. The three statues on the front wall symbolise Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nantes.

During the Second World War, the train station becomes a transit for French soldiers coming back from Germany. They organized medical check-ups and x-rays.

The 19th century Orsay Museum: 1986 – today

After the Second World War, the train station is abandoned for 20 years. A demolition permit is even granted but never carried out. The hotel closed in January 1873.

President Giscard d’Estaing later suggests turning the train station into a museum. The decision is taken in 1977 and the museum is inaugurated in 1986.

Source: https://paris-promeneurs.com/la-gare-d-orsay-musee-d-orsay/


The Orsay Museum presents works from the 19th century, covering the 1848-1914 time-period. Its collection continues the Louvre Museum, presenting works from Antiquity to the 18th century. The Orsay Museum owns the world’s largest collection of impressionist paintings.

During our visit-conferences, we studied academism, realism, impressionism, and several postimpressionist groups (such as the neo-impressionists, symbolists et synthesists), as well as orientalism.