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Of Orange Trees and Waterlilies - Perspectives No. 371

Of Orange Trees and Waterlilies

Perspectives No. 371

Musée de l'Orangerie (Wikipedia creative commons)
Musée de l'Orangerie                          (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

   The Musée de l'Orangerie was originally built to overwinter the orange trees that lined the garden of the Tuileries Palace in Paris. In 1852, Emperor Napoleon III ordered the building to be designed and constructed along the Seine River, a stone and glass greenhouse structure complete with decorative elements matching those on the Palace itself.

   In the early 1870s, after the fire at the Tuileries and the fall of the empire, the orangery became the property of the State, used for various public events, while continuing to provide winter storage for orange trees. But, after World War I, the building was put under the control of the Under-Secretariat of State for Fine Arts. Its new designation was as a space for the exhibition of fine arts by living artists. At the same time, Monet was formalizing his donation of eight large waterlily panels to the State. Together with his friend, the former Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau, Monet worked with the architect in charge of remodeling the space for the installation of the panels, designing two large oval rooms, forming the symbol of infinity. ". . . the natural light that enters though the ceiling immerses visitors in a state of grace, as intended by the painter." - Musée de l'Orangerie website.

Layout of the Musée de l'Orangerie

   Sadly, Monet did not live to see the museum inaugurated by Georges Clémenceau. The Musée National de l’Orangerie des Tuileries was attached to the Louvre in 1930.  Through the next several decades it was redesigned to show major national exhibitions. Subsequent renovation projects provided space to house the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection of artwork, and allowed the museum to become an independent national museum, separate from the supervision of the Louvre.

   However, the original natural light intended to be an important part of the Monet waterlily galleries was lost with the additional rooms constructed on two levels.  Finally, in 2000, a complete renovation was begun to correct those errors. The upper story rooms were knocked down and new rooms dug out on a basement level to install the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection.

   The renovation was not easy. Monet's waterlilies could not be detached from the walls on which they were originally installed. All the deconstruction and reconstruction work had to take place around the paintings which were sealed inside specially reinforced and alarmed boxes. The chief architect, Olivier Brochet, stated, "On one or two occasions, because of vibrations, the waterlilies began screaming, and the workers had to drop tools." The six-year renovation, completed in 2006, restored Monet's original vision of the space.

Interior of Musée de l'Orangerie (Wikipedia creative commons)




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Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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