Young Genius Tour of l’Orangerie in Paris

This is a second 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 a bit from the potential “Young Genius Tour of Paris,” focusing on the Musee de l’Orangerie.


This museum is strongest in works of old masters, particularly the aging Claude Monet, but it has some works from young geniuses, including Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

Picasso nudePicasso was a conceptual innovator, a category of artists who tend to do their greatest work early in their careers. The most-reproduced works of Picasso and the ones that tend to bring the highest prices at auction are those he created at ages 25-34 (1906-1915).

Reprints of Picasso’s works in textbooks experienced a secondary peak at ages 40-44 (1921-1925), which doesn’t show up in the chart (below) of auction prices vs. Picasso’s art when he created them.

L’Orangerie has a work by Picasso that’s earlier than his peak period:

  • “L’Etreinte” (age 22, 1903) from his Blue Period.

Picasso chartSeveral paintings are from just before his breakthrough work, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” which he painted at age 26.

  • “Les Adolescents” (age 25, 1906).
  • “Composition : paysans” (age 25, 1906)
  • “Nu sur fond rouge” (age 25, 1906)
  • “Femme au peigne” (age 25, 1906). Pictured.

Other works are from 10 years later, just before the secondary peak that intrigues art historians:

  • “Grande Nature morte” (ages 36-37, 1917 – 1918)
  • “Grand Nu à la draperie” (age 39-40, 1920 – 1921)
  • “Femme au chapeau blanc” (age 39-40, 1920 – 1921)

The museum also has several works displaying the styles of that secondary peak:

  • “Grande Baigneuse” (age 40, 1921) — monumental style
  • “Femmes à la fontaine” (age 40, 1921). Two versions.
  • “Femme au tambourin” (age 44, 1925)

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