The internet tourist guide sites describe the Musee Marmottan-Monet as a breath of fresh air in the centre of Paris. It’s a particularly apt description because the Marmottan is full of Impressionist artworks; paintings of impressions of real life, nature and people. The majority, as the museum name indicates, are Monet’s works, but there are also many by other impressionists, as well as a collection of illuminated manuscripts and the collections of Jules and Paul Marmottan. The museum itself is relatively small as it was originally a private residence. It takes its name from Paul Marmottan who owned it from 1883 onwards and transformed it into a beautiful townhouse decorated with his collection of fine art and furniture. He bequeathed his house and art to the Academy of Fine Arts which was the start of its history as a museum. Later still more artists and donors gave their collections to the museum so that today visitors have the pleasure of wandering through elegant townhouse rooms to see magnificent specialist collections. A quick Google search will give you more details; this site has some good pictures and basic details on hiring rooms if you want to hold a function there. How cool.
Of course it’s no longer on the wooded outskirts of Paris; it’s a 5-minute walk from La Muette metro stop in the well-to-do 16th arrondissement.
We visited the Marmottan last Saturday and had the added treat to see the special exhibition of works by Parisian artiste Marie Laurencin. A small disappointment was that the large paintings of water-lilies and weeping willows from the Monet collection had been shifted to a smaller area on the ground floor allowing the spacious basement gallery to be devoted to the Laurencin exhibition (which was super and very interesting). The space for the large works by Monet was a little cramped and I would have liked to see those from a distant perspective to appreciate their glory.
That aside, the museum is stunning. I love the impressionist works, I can’t help but feel happy and thrilled with life when I look at them – and to think that when first exhibited critics panned these real life dab-of-paint works. The work by Monet, “Impression, sun rising,” that sparked the name Impressionism is on display too, so you get to see the famous one.
My favourite Impressionist artist though is Berthe Morisot and I was very taken with the room full of her paintings depicting ordinary family scenes. It is easy to imagine yourself there seeing what she is seeing, sensing the moment. Berthe was married to Eugene Manet, brother of Impressionist artist Edouard Manet. Edouard’s lovely portrait of Berthe hangs in the small salon off the dining room.
Apart from the basement gallery the rooms are furnished and decorated as a townhouse; works by Morisot, Caillebotte, Manet and Renoir decorate the walls in the dining room, there are beautiful floral arrangements, ornamental pieces and elegant furniture. The Marmottan surrounds you with beauty without being overwhelming.It was a lovely way to spend a very cold afternoon and despite every internet and printed guide saying it’s less crowded thereby encouraging more people to go, it really was less crowded, there was no queue to get in and that was even the first weekend of the Laurencin exhibition.