Monet waterlilies bloom again at renovated Orangerie

5th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 5, 2006 (AFP) - Bathed in natural light as the painter intended, a set of shimmering waterscapes by the French Impressionist Claude Monet go back on public display this month after six years under wraps, when the renovated Orangerie Museum in Paris reopens its doors.

PARIS, May 5, 2006 (AFP) - Bathed in natural light as the painter intended, a set of shimmering waterscapes by the French Impressionist Claude Monet go back on public display this month after six years under wraps, when the renovated Orangerie Museum in Paris reopens its doors.

The national museums 28.9-million-euro redesign also provides a new 1,000-square-metre exhibition space for one of the country's major collections of Impressionist and modern art.

The new museum restores to prominence Monets 'Les Nympheas' a monumental set of eight two-metre high canvases depicting ponds and water lilies. A 1960s redesign had obstructed a skylight over the long oval rooms designed by the artist to house the canvases, depriving them of natural light.

"Its unique — there's nothing to match it elsewhere," curator Philippe Saunier told AFP, referring to the arrangement of canvases — with a combined length of 100 metres — that are stuck to the walls of the ground-level exhibition rooms in the Orangerie.

"The work on light is the very basis of the Impressionist approach. It was meaningless that the works of Monet should not benefit from it," he said, speaking at the museums inauguration this week by French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres.

Monet painted the Nympheas between 1914 and 1926 at his French country home in Giverny, in the northwestern region of Normandy. He offered them as a gift to France in 1918 following the end of World War I.

The artist intended the Nympheas rooms, with the soothing colours of the water scenes, to be an "asylum of meditation", according to information panels in the museum.

The museums other holding, the Walter-Guillaume collection, comprises 144 canvases by painters including Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and Henri Rousseau.

The 1852 Orangerie building stands next to Paris Place de la Concorde in the Tuileries public gardens, where it was built as an annex of the nearby Louvre museum.

Originally opened in 1927 housing the Monet paintings, the museum was expanded in the 1960s to accommodate the Walter-Guillaume collection after it was sold to the state by the widow of the Parisian collector Paul Guillaume.

By the time it closed in 2000 for renovation, 500,000 visitors a year were flocking to the museum.

A team led by architect Olivier Brochet set out to undo certain features of the 1960s design, making the Nympheas directly accessible from the entry hall and removing an extra concrete floor that had been installed over their display rooms.

For the Walter-Guillaume collection, they dug out a new space below ground level, also lit by natural light and including an auditorium and a 500-square-metre room for temporary exhibitions.

But the reopening was delayed for more than a year by an unexpected archaeological find in the ground below the museum. Workers in 2003 discovered a 55-metre stretch of a 16th-century defensive town wall cutting across the area scheduled to house the temporary exhibition space.

The government ruled that the archaeological remains should be preserved, obliging architects to alter the planned shape of the exhibition space so the stones could remain in their historical position.

A 20-metre stretch of the wall is now visible inside the renovated Orangerie. The overall space of the museum has been almost doubled to 6,300 square metres.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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