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

Orsay Museum Private Tour

Book an Orsay Museum Private Guided Tour to 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 key factors of success in Paris and the USA. Our Musée d’Orsay Tour is also to  Identify posterior art transformation with Post-Impressionists as Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Vincent Van Gogh, or Paul Gauguin. Orsay is big, so your local private licensed guide Lecturer will help you to make the most of your visit in the Musée d’Orsay, the most beloved one in Paris.

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.

Orsay Museum PRIVATE Guided Tour essentials

  1. Art history & Impressionism guided tour in English
  2. Really private 2 hours Musée d’Orsay tour
  3. A group of maximum 6 people exclusively yours
  4. With or without Skip-the-line tickets included 
  5. Morning, lunch-time, afternoon & evening tours
  6. M.Phil.-level local licensed guide lecturer
  7. See also our combined tour Orsay & Saint-Germain-des-Prés

What’s in the tour?

Before Impressionism




After Impressionism

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 collection is 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 examlpe the Gates of Hell by Rodin.

But Musée d’Orsay is not only about paintings and sculptures. It 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.

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. 

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 avoid the long waiting of the normal queue; you will be able to do so too, as we provide you skip-the-line-tickets.

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.

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

Musée d’Orsay Private Tour Organization

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:

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, Rouseau 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.


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

Neo-Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

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

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.

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

More About the Musée d’Orsay Private Tour – Art Evolution

Classification is Not so Simple 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?

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.

More About the Orsay Museum Private Tour – Social Relations Impact

The key role of an impressionism patron 

Forward-thinking art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel had a major influence on the 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 mutiple impacts, as 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 as the one received by Pissaro and Monet during there 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 an other interesting example.

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.

An Orsay Tour to Know About 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.

Musée d’Orsay tour : 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”), as 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 the 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 have been sold around $250 millions in 2011.

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

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 is a great example of an Orsay impressionist masterpiece.

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.

Musée d’Orsay tour : 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 a master piece in which Van Gogh combines it passion for complementry colors and japonism.

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

Van Gogh autoportrait or the of docteur Gachet who was taking car of him in th lasr weeks of his life in Paris.

If you are Van Gogh passionates 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. 

Keys for the Musée d’Orsay Tour

Innovations in Art

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

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


  • 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.)

Historical Context

  • European Imperialism
  • Opening of Japan to the outside word (1854)
  • Rural flight (rural exodus) / Industrial Revolution
  • Massive renovation of Paris
  • Second French Empire (Napoléon III)
  • Franco-Prussian War (July 1870-January 1871) 
  • French Third Republic (Belle Époque)

Tips for the Musée d’Orsay Tour

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

The Orsay Museum 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.

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

Know More About Musée d’Orsay

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.

After Your Orsay Tour: What’s Around?

The Louvre and the Tuillerie Gardens on the other bank of the Seine River are easily accessible via a walking bridge. Le Musée de l’Orangerie, in the Tuillerie 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 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, RenoirPissarroSisley, Degas, Jongkind, etc., but also painting by Delacroix, Courbet, Corot, Matisse, Duffy etc.

Thinks to know before booking

Your Private Licensed Guide in Paris

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

Orsay-Tour Highlights

  • Really private Orsay tour, for you and your party only.
  • Get an overview of the French painting from 1850 to 1914.
  • Understand the impressionist revolution in art.
  • Go straight to the main masterpieces by Manet, Courbet, Monet, Van Gogh, etc.
  • The opportunity to ask your dedicated professional guide any related questions.

Orsay-Tour Schedule and Availability

Availability: Tuesday to Saturday ; Evening Orsay Tour on Thursday. Avoid Tuesday as le Louvre is closed Orsay is more crowded. No tour on Monday & Sunday.

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 access means access to a privileged entry thanks to skip-the-line tickets, nevertheless a line may exist as security controls remain mandatory.
  • Cloakroom: no privilege, take your disposition to avoid having to queue there.
  • Photos are authorized but without flash.

Book your Private TOUR of Musée d’Orsay

Choose below your tour: You will then be  asked : -> choose the number of people, date & hours of visit -> after our validation-> pay on line.

Choose below your tour

You will then be  asked : 

  • choose number of people, date & hour of visit
  • after our validation
  • pay on line
Photo of a room in which are presented sculptures in the Musée d'Orsay to illustrate an Orsay Museum Guided Tour in Paris, France.

Orsay Museum Guided Tour: The Laundress 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 brigther than the Orsay one.