Paris and Impressionism go hand in hand. After all, Paris was the birthplace of this revolutionary art movement. In April of 1874, a group of artists who were tired of having their works rejected by the prestigious Paris Salon, decided to stage their own exhibition. Over 200 works were shown, including Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. This prompted art critic Louis Leroy to dub the event the Exhibition of the Impressionists. And just like that the course of art history was changed forever. Today, if you want to see this important painting, you have to head to the west of the city to the Musée Marmottan Monet. Or as I like to think of it, a paradise of Impressionism.
From Hunting Lodge to Museum
The Musée Marmottan Monet is housed in a beautiful building located next to the Bois de Boulogne. The building was originally a hunting lodge for the Duke of Valmy, but it was later bought by the Marmottan family in 1882. The final owner, Paul Marmottan, was an avid art collector, and upon his death, he bequeathed both the house and his art collection to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The Musée Marmottan opened soon thereafter in 1934.
The Gifts of the Musée Marmottan Monet
Since its opening, the museum has been the benefactor of two major gifts that have shaped its collection. First, in 1940, Victorine Donop de Monchy donated her father’s art collection to the museum. Her father, Georges de Bellio, had been the doctor of many of the most famous Impressionist painters. He was also a huge supporter of their work as artists, and he had amassed an impressive collection of Impressionist works during his lifetime.
Later, in 1966, Claude Monet’s son and only heir, Michel, donated a vast collection of his father’s works to the museum. This donation meant that the Musée Marmottan now held the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world. In honour of this achievement, the name of the museum was officially changed to the Musée Marmottan Monet. Later donations from the families of Berthe Morisot and Henri Duhem helped to cement the museum’s status as one of the top museums in the world to see Impressionist art. A status that holds to this day.
Surrounded by Impressionism
I recently visited the Musée Marmottan Monet to visit their exhibition about the influence of the sun on art. To be honest, prior to this visit, I had never given the subject much thought. But it was fascinating to see how art has changed as our scientific understanding of the sun has evolved. The exhibition spanned centuries and several different mediums, and I loved it all. But I easily spent the most time in front of the museum’s signature painting. Impression, Sunrise may be somewhat unassuming compared to some of Monet’s other works. But it is hard to not feel (and be impressed by) the weight of history when you look at it.
Unfortunately, this exhibition is now closed. But Impression, Sunrise remains at the museum as part of its permanent collections. Along with hundreds of other Impressionists works. In particular, the basement is a veritable Impressionist paradise, with an entire gallery dedicated to Claude Monet and his famous brushstrokes. The Musée Marmottan Monet also has a fraction of the crowds of the Musée d’Orsay, the other Paris museum famous for its Impressionist collection, meaning you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with others while you enjoy the artwork on display. It’s one of the many reasons why I highly recommend a trip to this off the beaten track museum. I promise you it is worth the trek to the west of the city.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.