Traveling by Art

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The Great Hall, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Great Hall, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The incomparable Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Many voyages started and ended in this former railway station on the banks of the Seine. The station was the hub for the rail system serving southwest France from 1900-1939. There were 16 underground tracks with the main station, great hall, and hotel above. Eventually the newer electric trains became too long for the platforms and the station evolved through several other uses including postal services and film set. It was opened as a museum in 1986  (

Now travel from this station is imaginary but still transformational. The art collection is from the period of 1848-1914. Many of the impressionist masterpieces are displayed in this museum. There are side halls and alcoves off of the great hall pictured here. The floorplan is intricate and it is easy to get ‘turned around’ in the rooms which are on several levels.

We first visited the Musée d’Orsay after spending a few days in Juan les Pins, France on the Mediterranean coast. While in Juan les Pins I had found a somewhat quiet route for running from the small town toward Cap d’Anitbes. South of town the seafront homes were large beautiful villas behind stone walls. On a sunny morning as I was running along I noticed a particularly impressive villa and stopped to look at it and enjoy the view across the water to the harbor. It was a beautiful and memorable spot.

Later when we visited the Musée d’Orsay as I was walking through one of the side halls I noticed an old painting that looked familiar. After a moment I realized that it was a painting of that same villa on Cap d’Antibes. The painting was made in the mid-1800’s so the road looked different, but the stone wall and the villa looked almost identical and were painted from the same location where I had stood. I went to find my wife to show her. I walked around for quite a while trying to find her. By the time I found her I had forgotten how to get back to the room where the painting was. And I never did find it again. But maybe next time….

The Musée d’Orsay is certainly a place that you can visit repeatedly. But there is also good news about the collection itself.

From May through September 2010 there will be two exhibitions of 220 pieces from the collection on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The exhibit is called ‘Birth of Impressionism’. We look forward to it but I am amazed that they would move that artwork.

Maybe I will find that painting of the villa when they are on display in the de Young. Photo: 1/60 s at f/2.8.

There are other Paris photos in the Photo Gallery at my website:




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