In Focus: The Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris

Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris/Image by Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

Holding one of the finest collections of masterpieces from impressionist Claude Monet, the Musée Marmottan Monet is a small Parisian museum that many visitors overlook. It’s an unassuming space nestled near the edge of the Bois de Boulogne park in far-west Paris, and in a well-to-do residential neighborhood that isn’t exactly brimming with tourist attractions.

But with its impressive number of works from the Impressionist master, in addition to paintings, sculptures, and other artworks from the likes of Berthe Morisot, Jean-Baptise Corot, Alfred Sisley, Paul Gaugin and many others, it’s well worth the slight detour. Keep reading to learn more about the permanent collections and how to make the most of your visit.

The Museum & Its Collections

The ground floor of the Musée Marmottan Monet, with its Baroque and 19th-century collections/Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

Entering the handsome 19th-century mansion and wandering around the ground floor of the permanent exhibit, it’s easy to feel a bit confused at first. This is a museum largely dedicated to Monet, isn’t it? If so, why the Empire-style salons and period furniture, Baroque paintings, and classical statues?

The answer is that the museum, as its name suggests, melds two collections: initially, that of founder and former owner Paul Marmottan, who had bequeathed his home and existing collection of art to the Academy of Fine Arts upon his death in 1932. The museum first opened as one dedicated to French and European classical artistic traditions.

It was only in 1940 that it began acquiring masterpieces from Impressionist painters, who had initially been rebuffed by the Academie as controversial, their works viewed as radical. But by the mid 20th-century, their work was prized, and the museum acquired much of its current day Impressionist holdings– thanks in great part to Michel Monet, the youngest son of Claude.

Meanwhile, the work of fellow impressionist Berthe Morisot also found its home at the private museum.

The result is a small but remarkably diverse permanent collection, extending from the Impressionist and modern periods back to manuscripts, statuary and other works from the Middle Ages. Here are some of the highlights, starting with the more recent ones.

The Monet Collection

Claude Monet, "Impression, Sunrise", oil on canvas, 1872. Public domain
Claude Monet, “Impression, Sunrise”, oil on canvas, 1872. Public domain

The museum holds over 100 works from Claude Monet– one of the largest in the world, and comprising both iconic masterpieces and lesser-known works. One of the most impressive among these is “Impression, Sunrise” (shown above), painted in 1872.

A monumental, circular room showcasing several paintings from Monet’s Nymphéas series (Waterlilies) is another major highlight. Ample seating areas invite you to sit and contemplate the dreamlike, illusory but amazingly lifelike play of light, plants and water.

{Book a 2-hour small group tour of the Musée Marmottan-Monet (via GetYourGuide)}

Other paintings in the collection are lesser-known, but equally mesmerizing. Works showing modern industrial and urban scenes, such as “The Train in the Snow” (1875), “Gare Saint-Lazare”(St. Lazare train station, (1877), and “London, the Parliament- Reflections on the Thames”, underline that the artist was at ease with human-made structures and scenes as he was with painting nature.

Claude Monet, “Le Pont de l’Europe. Gare Saint-Lazare”, 1877. Public domain.

Portraits of children playing on the beach, absorbing, vibrant depictions of trees and snowy European landscapes, and paintings of iconic French monuments (Tuileries gardens, the Rouen Cathedral), and paintings showing simple moments in the nearby countryside outside Paris round out the remarkable collection.

Claude Monet, Red Houses at Bjornegaard in the Snow (Norway), 1895. Image by Courtney Traub
Claude Monet, Red Houses at Bjornegaard in the Snow (Norway), 1895. Image by Courtney Traub

The Berthe Morisot Collection

Berthe Morisot, “Reclining Sheperdess”, 1891. Public domain.

While rarely accorded the attention she deserves, Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot was a master in her own right, depicting intimate, detailed scenes of daily life in a distinctive and arresting style. Thanks to a bequeathing from her family members, the museum dedicates an entire section to her major works, including “Reclining Sheperdess” (1891, seen above), a portrait of her husband and fellow painter Eugène Manet and their daughter Julie, and many others.

Berthe Morisot, “Eugène Manet and his daughter in the Bougival garden”, 1881. Public domain

Other Collections at the Museum

Gustave Caillebotte, "Paris Street- Rainy Day"(1877). Public domain/Musée Marmottan-Monet
Gustave Caillebotte, “Paris Street- Rainy Day”(1877). Public domain/Musée Marmottan-Monet

The remainder of the collection at the Marmottan-Monet is equally worth your time. Continue your visit with the Impressionism and Modern Times section, with masterpieces from artists including Degas, Pissarro, Caillebotte (his painting showing a rainy street in Paris, shown above, is one of my favorites), Renoir, Delacroix, Sisley and Rodin.

Post-impressionist works from Paul Gaugin, Paul Signac, Maurice Denis and Marc Chagall complete this fascinating part of the permanent exhibit.

In the section entitled “From the Revolutionary Period to the Second Empire“, classical French styles and artists fill the rooms, with paintings, statuary, furniture and other works of art from the likes of portraitist Louis Boilly, Francois-Xavier Fabre, Pierre Antoine Bellangé, and Georges Jacob.

Last but certainly not least, the Middle Ages and Ancien Regime section houses a small but impressive collection of pages from illuminated medieval manuscripts, sculptures and statuay in wood, Renaissance-era paintings and sculptures. Works from European artists including Lorenzo Monaco, Girolamo da Cremona, Jean Fouquet, andJean Colombe are highlights.

Getting There & Practical Information

Circular gallery showing part of Monet's "Nymphéas" series (waterlilies) at the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

The Musée Marmottan Monet is located in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, at the outer edge of the Passy neighborhood and in close reach of the Bois de Boulogne, a sprawling wood and park popular for picnics, paddleboating, and sporting activities.

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