Paris
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Broaden Horizons
Paris
Image of el award Travellers’ Choice given to the better attractions on Tripadvisor.
Broaden Horizons
Paris
Image of el award Travellers’ Choice given to the better attractions on Tripadvisor.

Orsay Museum Guided Tour

Our Orsay Museum Tour is a private guided tour in which our fully licensed guide Lecturer will help you to make the most of your visit to the Musée d’Orsay, the most beloved one in Paris.

Photo of the main hall of the Orsay Museum, to illustrate a Musée d'Orsay Guided Tour in Paris, France.

Orsay Tour: The main hall of the Orsay Museum. This open space illuminated by the natural light from the huge barrel vault glass roof is dedicated to sculptures meanwhile paintings are installed in lateral rooms where they are protected from direct bright light.

Orsay Museum Private Guided Tour essentials

From 120 € for 1 to 2 people + 20 € per extra personn

  • +/- 2 hours guided tour in English
  • Really private tour = your party only (6 people max.) 
  • Postgraduate (MPhil) certified French national guide
  • Flexible time schedule – Evening Tours on Thursdays
  • Not available on Mondays & Tuesdays 
  • Skip-the-line ticket to buy online (16 € per adult) 

KNOW MORE / BOOK NOW

What’s in the tour?

Before Impressionism

Light

Impressionism

Color

After Impressionism

Explore art evolution from Academicism to Impressionism et Post-Impressionism. Figure out how and why the impressionist art revolution happened in Paris in the 19th century. Discover main master pieces of Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot or Mary Cassatt. Understand impressionism’s key factors of success in Paris and the USA. Identify posterior art transformation with Post-Impressionists as Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Vincent Van Gogh, or Paul Gauguin.

Why Visit the Musée d’Orsay?

The Musée d’Orsay, is the most famous one in Paris with Le Louvre. It houses modern art from 1848 to 1914. Orsay Museum impressionist and post-impressionist collections are the largest in the world!

The museum is also famous for its impressive collection of sculptures by artists as famous as Claudel, Bourdelle, Bartholdi, Daumier, Degas, etc., with a lot of masterpieces as for example the Gates of Hell by Rodin.

It is less known but Orsay Museum also exhibits an important collection of Art Nouveau furniture and houses a huge photograph collection which is sadly very little shown.

A model of the Opéra Garnier is presented at the end of the main hall.

Last, the Orsay Museum regularly organizes first-class temporary exhibits of artworks by nineteenth-century artists.

Why an Orsay Museum Private Tour?

Firstly, as your local guide holds the Guide-Conférencier card (highest level France guiding certification), he can use a specific entrance to make your skip-the-line tickets even more efficient.

Secondly, Orsay is big (one of the largest museums in Europe), so your local tour guide will ease your route in the five Orsay Museum floors.

Thirdly you will get an overview of the French painting from 1850 to 1914; understand the impressionist revolution in art.

And finally, not the less important, go straight to the main masterpieces by Manet, Courbet, Monet, Van Gogh, etc.

Your Private Tour Guide in Paris

Certified French national guide
BA, Magna Cum Laude, Heritage Developpement & Preservation from Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers
Postgraduate from Paris Dauphine-PSL University

Taking an Orsay Museum private tour with us is definitely the right solution to make the most of your visit to Musée d’Orsay.

Organization of the Tour

Our Orsay Tour is designed to give you a solid overview of the French painting of the 1848-1914 period, but is also an impressionism guided tour, organized chronologically around the core theme in three parts:

Part 1: Before Impressionism

Starting with the « Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture » heirs, the « Salon de peinture« , with Ingres Neoclassism, Cabanel or Gérôme Academism.

Continuing with impressionism precursors as Delacroix’s Romantism, Courbet’s Realism, Barbizon school (Millet, Daubigny, Rousseau , etc.).

And then Boudin, master of Monet in Normandy, Corot often called the first of the impressionist and early Manet’s alla prima answer to Couture « finished painting » principles.

Part 2: Impressionism

Claude Monet, Frédéric Bazille, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissaro, Édgard Degas, Gustave Caillebotte, etc.

Part 3: Neo-Impressionism & Post-Impressionism

Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, etc.

Photo of people watching master pieces in Orsay's Impressionist Gallery (in the background Luncheon on the Grass by Édouard Manet), to illustrate an Orsay Museum Guided Tour in Paris, France.

Orsay Private Guided Tour: the Impressionist Gallery, in the background Luncheon on the Grass by Édouard Manet  © Musée d’Orsay / Sophie Crépy

Glimps of the Tour Content

Historical Context

  • European Imperialism
  • Opening of Japan to the outside world (1854)
  • Rural flight (rural exodus) / Industrial Revolution
  • Paris World’s Fairs
  • Massive renovation of Paris
  • Second French Empire (Napoléon III)
  • Franco-Prussian War (July 1870-January 1871)
  • French Third Republic (Belle Époque)
Photo of one of the Gare Saint-Lazare painting by Claude Monet to illustrate the Orsay Museum private tour.

Monet displayed at least 8 versions of his Saint-Lazard Station at the 1877 third Impressionist exhibition. One is in Orsay. An iconic subject as depicting industrialization but also the train station to reach favorite painters places in Normandy and the north of Paris. Credit The Yorck Project – GNU Free Documentation License.

Art Evolution

Classification is not so easy in arts

Using a classification (before impressionism, impressionism, post-impressionism) makes things easier, but do not always work:

  • Neoclassical Ingres, for instance is also a precursor of modern arts with his naked figures expressive distortions.
  • Gustave Caillebotte (Impressionists patron, impressionist himself) most famous painting The Floor Scrapers is outstandingly realistic.

Our Orsay guided tour enlighten these kinds of questions and try to answer interesting matters as: was Degas or Manet impressionist?

Impact of Technical Innovations in Art

The 19th century is a century of innovation, but we will see in our Orsay Guided Tour that three of them drastically impact Art.

  • Photography will influence painting, become art itself, and take to painting the lead in representing the real.
  • The painting tube will ease the outdoor painting and authorize a full application of the new color theories.
  • Synthetic pigments provided new shades of green, blue, and yellow never used by painters before.
Understand the evolution in the use of colors

In the 17th century Royal Academy of  Painting and Sculpture’s members were discussing the respective value of drawing and color. Two centuries later the debate toke a new dimension with « Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors » by Chevreul. Till Ingres was a drawing apostle, Delacroix was aware of color discoveries later used by Impressionists and Post-Impressionists like in:

  •  Poppies by Monet: contrast of complementary colors
  • The Circus by Seurat: Divisionism and Pointillism
  • The Talisman by Sérusier: Cloisonism and the triumph of color

Painters in this color revolution were also influence by experimental works of Helmholtz or Ogden Rood who with linked in his Modem Chromatics (1879) the new color theory with available pigments including the synthetic one’s brought by 19th century innovation.

Photo of The Virgin Adoring the Host by Ingres to illustrate the Orsay guided tour in Paris.

Painting by Ingres the apostle of the drawing.

Styles
  • Neoclassicism (in reference to ancient Greece and Rome)
  • Academism (the art of following rules and conventions)
  • Romanticism (medievalism, imagination, and emotion)
  • Orientalism (inspired by Egypt and Algeria expeditions)
  • Realism (an expression of 19th-century society)
  • Impressionism (our Orsay guided tour central subject!)
  • Neo-Impressism (pointillism, chromoluminarism, etc.)
Photo the birth of Venus oil painting by Cabanel to illustrate the Orsay guided tour, Paris, France.

The birth of Venus by Cabanel, purchased by Emperor Napoleon III, the painting is a symbol, an icon of academism.

Social Relations Impact

The Key Role of an Impressionism Patron

Forward-thinking art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel had a major influence on Impressionist Art development. He bought hundreds of Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, etc. during his career and established impressionism popularity in the USA.

Consequently, remarkable impressionist collections are now in the USA; as the MET (New York Metropolitan Museum of Art) one with which we will do some parallels during our Orsay Guided Tour.

 

Influences Received by Impressionist & 19th-Century Artists
  • Industrialization with its technical innovation and its human misery was a great subject of inspiration for the impressionists.
  • Japonism with the influence ukiyo-e prints original use of color and composition on the work of impressionists and post-impressionists.
  • Photography with multiple impacts, for example, the influence of Marey or Muybridge‘s photos on Degas for whom movement variation was a central theme as was light, air, and water for Monet.
Relations and Influences Between the Artists

Socially, all these painters were often also linked together, sometimes surprisingly as avant-garde Édouard Manet and academic Ernest Meissonier or Thomas Couture. They are also surprises speaking of influence between the artists like the one received by Pissaro and Monet during their 1870 stays in London, by Turner‘s light treatment, or Constable‘s use of emerald green. Van Gogh‘s tribute to Millet‘s Paysans painting is another interesting example.

The world of literacy was also linked with this art revolution via novelist Emile Zola or poet Charles Baudelaire.

Women and the 19th-Century Painting

You will also discover that some iconic painters of the period were women as Rosa Bonheur with her artistic Realism or Berthe Morisot, Eva Gonzalès, and the American Mary Cassat who actively participated in the impressionist revolution.

Geography of Impressionist & 19th Century Painting

Paris region with the Barbizon school; numerous places impressionist painters were fond of as Argenteuil, Pontoise or Auvers-sur-Oise also famous to be Van Gogh last place of residence where he painted 78 works in 70 days. Or also Éragny-sur-Epte, at Normandy limit where Pissaro experimented Divisionism.

Normandy: Region where begun Monet following Boudin. There is Giverny with Monet’s Water lily garden, but also Le Havre, the port of « Impression, Sunrise » and Rouen, city of the « Cathedral Series ».

Sud of France with Aix-en-Provence city of Cézanne and Zola, or Arles where Van Gogh looked for Japan’s light and meet Gaugin.

North Africa: Land of inspiration of Orientalism.

Orsay Tour Focus: the Master Pieces

Masterpieces you Can Expect to See

Olympia by Manet or his no less famous Luncheon on the Grass  (« Déjeuner sur l’herbe »), like the one by Monet are normally part of the tour. The Orsay Museum owns close to 80 Claude Monet paintings so we will show you more than one with:

  • The Saint-Lazare Station, depicting modern life.
  • Rouen Cathedral Series, light study.
  • Blue Water Lilies, on the way to abstract arts.

Our Orsay Guided Tour Route will also cross Cézanne works as:

The Card Players, probably an adapted motif from Le Nain brothers’ 17th-century genre painting. One of the five versions of this canvas has been sold for around $250 million in 2011.

The Hanged Man’s House, presented at the 1874 first impressionist exhibit, shows the importance of volume for Cézanne. An aspect of his work that inspired Picasso and Braque in the early 20th century in a new art evolution called cubism.

The Hanged Man’s House still exists and is situated in the charming small town of Auvers-sur-Oise in the north of Paris, it is where Van Gogh spent the last days of his life.

 

Orsay’s Impressionist Masterpiece Example « Poppies » by Monet

Photo of an oil Painting by Claude Monet "Coquelicots" to illustrate an Orsay Museum Guided Tour in Paris, France.

Poppies (« Coquelicot, la promenade ») by Claude Monet

The painting was presented like « Impression, soleil levant » (Impression, Sunrise) at  the first impressionist exhibit in 1874. The canvas brings together impressionist principles: small-scale canvas compatible with « Peinture de plein air » (outdoor painting). Luminous juxtaposition of short brushstrokes of unmixed colors and sketched details to convey the ephemeral instant atmosphere.

Orsay Tour Focus: Van Gogh

The end of the Orsay tour usually focus on Van Gogh from whom Orsay owns a lot of master pièces:
Bedroom in Arles is a masterpiece in which Van Gogh combines its passion for complementary colors and Japonism.

The Church in Auvers-sur Oise differs from the impressionist works, as Van Gogh does not give the impression of a church but its expression anticipating fauvism or expressionism.

Van Gogh’s self-portrait or the one of Docteur Gachet who was taking care of him in the last weeks of his life in Paris.

If you are a Van Gogh enthusiast do not miss our Van Gogh in Auvers Walking Tour!

Photo of the oil painting Starry Night Over the Rhône "la nuit étoilée sur le Rhone" by Vincent Van Gogh, to illustrate an Orsay Museum Guided Tour in Paris, France.

If the famous Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is visible in the MoMA (New York Museum of Modern Art), Starry Night Over the Rhône (« Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône« ), is in Musée d’Orsay. The canvas depicts the reflections of the gas lighting, an expression of 19th-century innovation, across the dark blue water of the river.

More about the Musée d’Orsay

A Great View of Paris During Your Musée d’Orsay Private Tour

The Orsay Museum’s eastern big clock (5th floor just before the impressionists’ gallery) offers a great view of Paris with Le Louvre, Opera Garnier, Sacré-Coeur Basilica, and Montmartre, the place of the famous canvas « Moulin de la Galette » by Renoir.

Photo of an inside view of Musée d'Orsay Great Clock to illustrate an Orsay Museum Guided tour, Paris, France.

The Orsay Museum eastern big clock’s great view of Paris. The other Orsay clock is right after the impressionist rooms at Café Campana.

Musée d’Orsay a Former Train Station

The Musée d’Orsay is located along the River Seine, in a former train station, a fabulous looking 19th-century building designed by Architect V. Laloux for the « Paris, Exposition Universelle de 1900 » using iron framing to maximize interior spaces and fenestration. Transformed  by architect Gae Aulenty, the building was inaugurated as Musée d’Orsay in 1986.

Twilight view of the Orsay Museum along the Seine River to illustrate an Orsay Museum Guided Tour in Paris, France.

Twilight view of the Orsay Museum along the Seine River. The architecture of this fabulous-looking 19th-century building is also part of the Orsay Guided Tour.

Around Our Orsay tour

The Orsay Tour: the Last Part of our French Paintings Tours Series

Our Orsay Tour is an autonomus museum discovery tour covering the period from 1850 to 1914. But it is also the fifth part of a series of French paintings tours from 14th to 19th centuries. The four first parts are Louvre tours: 14th to 16 century French paintings – 17th century French paintings 18th century French paintings19th century French painting (till 1850). These Louvre tours can also be followed as a single 3 hours crash course French paintings challenge.

Also as a complement to our Orsay tour we also propose a Saint-Germain-des-Prés fine arts and painting tour and a Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise tour.

 

After Your Orsay Tour: What’s Around?

The Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens on the other bank of the Seine River are easily accessible via a walking bridge. Le Musée de l’Orangerie, in the Tuileries Gardens, shows water lily murals by Monet and has a great impressionist gallery.

Last, if you like the Napoleonic period the Musée de la Légion d’honneur is just in front of the Orsay Museum entrance parvis.

More Impressionism Places in Paris and Outside

In Paris Area

There is plenty of impressionism related places in the Paris area as: Musée Marmottan, Musée Montmartre-Jardin Renoir, Musée Millet, Propriété Caillebotte, Musée Pissaro, Musée de la Grenouillère, Maison Van Gogh etc. Do not hesitate to ask our Orsay Tour guide, he will be happy to inform you about.

MuMa Impressionism Outside of Paris

For more impressionist painting, MuMa Musée d’art moderne André Malraux, exhibit the biggest impressionist collection in France after the Musée d’Orsay one. The Muma is situated in Le Havre, the port of  « Impression, Sunrise » and houses works by Boudin, Monet, Manet, Guillaumin, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, Jongkind, etc., but also painting by Delacroix, Courbet, Corot, Matisse, Duffy etc.

Thinks to Know Before Booking

Meeting Point

In front of the Orsay Museum by the rhino statue, rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris. Access: Métro Line 12 station SolférinoRER C station Musée d’Orsay

Orsay-Tour Attention Points

  • Prices do not include food, drinks or any other extra services.
  • Tour duration and content are indicative. Visit may vary due to  contingencies.
  • Private tour means a tour for you & your party only, not that Orsay is privatized.
  • Skip-the-line ticket means a ticket buy on line, nevertheless you still have to line for security and sanitary controls.
  • Refund: if for any razon we are not able to do the tour, we refund the tour, but not the tickets.

Book Your Private Tour of Musée d’Orsay

Just request the date, time, number of people you want for your Orsay tour in our calendar and follow the below 4 steps online easy process.   

(1) Receive our OK email (free reservation valid 48 hours)

(2) Buy your Orsay tickets on line (compatible schedule)

(3) Once you have your tickets pay your tour on line

(4) Receive our
confirmation (email)

  • Nota bene : Step (1) free reservation is lost if no step (3) payment received after 48h.
  • A full price online Orsay ticket is 16 €. Free for all kids under 18 years old, free under 26 years old for the European Union residents – Check last updated info and only buy your tickets on Orsay Museum web site.
Photo of "The Laundress" a realist painting by Daumier to illustrate the Orsay Museum guided tour

The Laundress is a realist painting by Daumier showing hard work in the cities meanwhile Millet was depicting the one of the fields. There are three versions of this canvas the MET one (here) is brighter than the Orsay one.

Bazille and Camille study for "Déjeuner sur l'herbe" by Monet.to illustrate the Orsay Museum Guided Tour in Paris, France.

Orsay Museum Guided Tour: Bazille and Camille study for « Déjeuner sur l’herbe » by Monet.