At the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Virtually explore the Musée d'Orsay with Smarthistory as your guide

Some background

videos + essays

Link to the Musée d'Orsay's website

Henry Mosler, <i>Le Retour</i>
Henry Mosler, Le Retour

Tightly rendered in a dark palette, Le Retour reimagines a traditional New Testament subject in the picturesque French province of Brittany.

A summer day in Paris: Berthe Morisot’s <em>Hunting Butterflies</em>
A summer day in Paris: Berthe Morisot’s Hunting Butterflies

The subject takes control over the outdoor setting, expressing her independence in spite of limitations.

How to recognize Monet: <em>The Basin at Argenteuil</em>
How to recognize Monet: The Basin at Argenteuil

In the suburbs, Parisians escaped the pressures of modern life. Monet painted their sun-drenched pleasures.

How to recognize Renoir: <em>The Swing</em>
How to recognize Renoir: The Swing

Renoir wanted to forget everything he knew about how to paint so that he could render light as it really is.

Gustave Courbet, <em>A Burial at Ornans</em>
Gustave Courbet, A Burial at Ornans

They wanted an epic Biblical image, or one from a Greek myth. He gave them a painting of a modern-day funeral.

Berthe Morisot, <em>The Cradle</em>
Berthe Morisot, The Cradle

Lacking access to the cafes and bars male Impressionists painted, Morisot mastered intimate domestic interiors.

Claude Monet, <em>The Gare Saint-Lazare</em>
Claude Monet, The Gare Saint-Lazare

Hazy with smoke, the architecture of the train station and technology of the iron engine dissolve before our eyes.

Édouard Manet, <em>Olympia</em>
Édouard Manet, Olympia

Manet decided to replace the idealized female nude with the image of a known prostitute. It didn’t go so well.

Thomas Couture, <em>Romans of the Decadence</em>
Thomas Couture, Romans of the Decadence

Like other academic artists, Couture draws a subject from ancient Rome, but chooses decadence, not heroism.

Jean-François Millet, <em>L’Angélus</em>
Jean-François Millet, L’Angélus

This sentimental scene of a quiet moment of prayer in the fields reflects a nostalgia for religion in modern France.

Auguste Renoir, <em>Moulin de la Galette</em>
Auguste Renoir, Moulin de la Galette

Like a snapshot, Renoir’s flirtatious, social scene seems to represent a caught moment in time.

Rosa Bonheur, <em>Plowing in the Nivernais</em> (or <em>The First Dressing</em>)
Rosa Bonheur, Plowing in the Nivernais (or The First Dressing)

Rosa Bonheur defies the patriarchy, one masterfully painted ox at a time.