Old Master Tour of l’Orangerie in Paris

This is an excerpt from a work in progress — a travel guide that I’m writing for myself in preparation for a trip to Paris this September. To the extent that it’s completed before the trip, it will consist of two paired sets of travel descriptions of works on display in Paris by experimental innovators — old masters — and by conceptual innovators — young geniuses.

Here’s the first excerpt from the potential “Old Master Tour of Paris,” focusing on the Musee de l’Orangerie.


This museum has a large collection of works by old masters, particularly the aging Claude Monet and middle-aged Paul Cezanne.

Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906)

Cezanne 'Dans le parc'Cezanne was an experimental innovator, a category of artists who tend to do their greatest work later in their careers.

The most-reproduced works of Cezanne and the ones that tend to bring the highest prices at auction are those he created in his 40s and toward the end of his life at age 67. (See chart below, which plots auction prices on the unlabeled vertical axis against age on the horizontal axis.)

His late works’ varied viewpoints and complex representations of shapes inspired Picasso, among many others.

Later works by Cezanne at l’Orangerie include:

  • The landscape “La Barque et les baigneurs” (age 51, 1890)
  • “Portrait de Madame Cézanne” (age 51, 1890)
  • The still life “Vase paillé, sucrier et pommes” (age 51-54, 1890 – 1893)
  • The landscape “Le Rocher rouge” (age 56, 1895)
  • The landscape “Dans le parc de Château Noir” (age 59-61, 1898 – 1900). Pictured.

Cezanne chartThese paintings Cezanne did in his 40s:

  • The still life “Fleurs dans un vase bleu” (age 40, 1880)
  • “Madame Cézanne au jardin” (age 40-41, 1879 – 1880)
  • The still life “Pommes et biscuits” (age 40-41, 1879-80)
  • The still life “Fleurs et fruits” (age 41, 1880)
  • The still life “Fruits, serviette et boîte à lait” (age 41-42, 1880 – 1881)
  • “Portrait du fils de l’artiste” (age 42-43, 1881-82)
  • The landscape “Arbres et maisons” (age 46-47, 1885 – 1886)

Works by Cezanne at l’Orangerie also include ones from earlier in his life, including:

  • The still life “Nature morte, poire et pommes vertes” (age 34, 1873)
  • The landscape “Paysage au toit rouge” ou “Le Pin à l’Estaque” (age 36-37, 1875 – 1876)
  • “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” (age 37-38, 1876 – 1877)

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)

Monet water liliesMonet was an experimental innovator, a category that tends to achieve its greatest successes later in life.

In contrast to that typical pattern, the most often reprinted works by Monet were those he painted from ages 25 to 34 (1865-1874), an exploratory period that culminated in the first Impressionist art exhibit in Paris in 1874. Similarly, Monet’s auction prices peaked with his paintings from age 29. (1869).

But he also achieved great successes in his later works, which is typical of experimental innovators. Judged on the basis of auction prices and reprints, the quality of Monet’s work also hit peaks in his early 50s (1890 – 1894) and in his early 80s (1920-1924), when he painted the water lilies.

He created “Les Nympheas” (the water lilies) from ages 74 to 86 (1914 – 1926) and offered them to the French government in 1918 by arrangement with Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. They were installed in L’Orangerie in 1927, shortly after Monet’s death.

L’Orangerie reopened in 2006 after years of renovation. It showcases the two huge rooms of water lilies that Monet painted for display there.


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