Musée Marmottan: 300+ Ways to Love Monet
Text and Photos by Marla Norman, Publisher Travel Curious Often
With so many world-class museums in Paris, many of the smaller institutions and galleries frequently go unseen, particularly by visitors pressed for time. However, if you are a Monet lover — and who isn’t? — Musée Marmottan Monet (2 rue Louis Boilly) should be at the top of your list. With the largest collection of Monet works, over 300 pieces of art, the museum is a treasure trove beyond measure.
Added to the wealth — quite literally — are a number of paintings and sculptures from other Impressionist artists, including Renoir, Gauguin, Degas, Manet, Sisley, Pissarro, Morisot, Seurat and Caillebotte to name a few.
Originally, the museum was a hunting lodge for the Duke of Valmy. Now, a part of the 16th arrondissement, the property is still surrounded by beautiful parks in the picturesque neighborhood. Jules Marmottan purchased the lodge in 1882, and eventually the family donated the house and its furnishings to the Paris Académie des Beaux-Arts.
Later, in 1957, the family of Dr. Georges de Bellio donated a large collection of Impressionist works he had collected as the physician to Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley and Renoir. Finally, in 1966, Claude Monet’s son Michel bequeathed the museum his personal collection of his father’s work — several hundred paintings.
The lower level of the Marmottan houses Monet’s Water Lillies murals and other large canvases. The exhibit changes regularly, but generally, the Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise) is on view. This monumental piece is credited as a catalyst for the Impressionist movement, and even with providing a name for the artistic group.
Also notable is that the Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise) was stolen in 1985. Five armed men, wearing masks, entered the museum during regular hours. Threatening security staff and visitors, they made off with nine paintings, including Monet’s landmark masterpiece. The value of the paintings at the time was approximately $12 million. Fortunately, all were tracked down and returned to the museum.
The day we visit, it’s chilly and gray. But the Monet paintings immediately transport us to flower bedecked parks, beaches of southern France and Monet’s beloved gardens of Giverny. Les Nénuphars (Water Lillies) murals draw us into the swirl of brilliantly rich colors and reflected skies…a space and time completely separate from the present…a dream we hated to let go.