Photographs in Musée d’Orsay

By Harshitha Jagathiesh

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris is renowned for its vast collection of art and artifacts, but it also houses a collection of equally captivating photographs. 

From iconic scenes of Parisian life to quiet moments of beauty, the collection of photographs at the Musée d’Orsay offers a unique window into the past. 

This article explores the history, highlights and importance of the Musée d’Orsay’s photo collection.

Portrait of Eugène Delacroix from the front, bust

This portrait is a powerful image of the renowned French painter Eugène Delacroix. 

It captures the artist’s intensity and pride and is his earliest photographic portrait. 

Delacroix’s cousin, Leon Riesener, captured the portrait in 1842 while Delacroix was visiting his home in Frépillon (Val-d’Oise). 

Delacroix was ill and asked Riesener to photograph him to distract himself from his fatigue. 

This portrait is a testament to Riesener’s talent in capturing the complexity of his cousin’s personality. 

This portrait of Delacroix can be found in the Musée d’Orsay and is a powerful reminder of the artist’s legacy.

Trees reflecting in the water – Lacock Abbey

William Henry Fox Talbot gave photography a different perspective through this work.

This photograph in Musée d’Orsay offers a new way of looking at nature and developing a new art form. 

This image of Trees Reflected in the Water at Lacock Abbey is a beautiful example of Talbot’s vision and a reminder of the early beginnings of photography.

In this photo, the trees on the left of the shoreline form a diagonal, repeated in the reflections on the water. 

This creates a harmonious ensemble in which the light is both the engine and the subject of the image.

Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne) – Interior view of a cloister gallery, Saint-Pierre church

Moissac is a commune of Tarn-et-Garonne in the south of France. 

It is renowned for its rich Romanesque architecture and its abbey church of Saint Pierre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The church’s interior, including the cloister galleries, has been featured in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, displaying the beauty and grandeur of this unique piece of history. 

Self-portrait with Yvonne and Christine Lerolle

Self-portrait with Yvonne and Christine Lerolle by Edgar Degas is a remarkable photograph taken at the home of the painter Henri Lerolle, a great friend of Degas. 

The picture shows Degas himself in the company of Lerolle’s two daughters, Christine and Yvonne. 

The image is attributed to Degas beyond doubt due to its pedigree, appearance, layout and lighting. 

The scene is composed harmoniously and strangely, with Yvonne leaning on a pedestal and the artist’s silhouette emerging in the foreground. 

The combination of several lamps used to create the desired chiaroscuro remain invisible, giving the image a mysterious yet captivating quality. 

Self-portrait with Yvonne and Christine Lerolle is a beautiful photograph that captures the essence of Degas’ work and aesthetic.

Floods of the Rhone in 1856, in Avignon

In 1856, the Rhone River flooded Avignon, France and the moment was captured by renowned photographer Edward Baldus in a series of photographs. 

The photographs are now displayed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, providing a rare glimpse into the devastating effects of the flood.

Peasant Scene

The photograph depicts a peasant scene of a woman sitting on a chair, deep in thought, while a man stands beside her, leaning on a stick, watching her. 

The photograph captures the moment of contemplation between the two characters and conveys the sense of rural life in France.

Martha at the tub

Martha at the Tub is an iconic photograph of Pierre Bonnard displayed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. 

It is a portrait of a woman named Martha in her bathtub, looking out from the frame with a serene, calm expression. 

The photograph is one of Bonnard’s most famous works and is revered for its use of light and shadow and its intimate portrayal of the subject.

Stream in the forest 

The photograph Stream in the Forest by Henri Le Secq is a masterful example of 19th-century realistic landscape photography. 

Le Secq was passionate about Gothic architecture and was one of the most remarkable interpreters of the Heliographic Mission of 1851. 

However, the landscape was his favorite subject.

He photographed “slices of nature” devoid of the sky, highlighting the density of matter. 

His works demonstrate an earthly conception of the landscape as opposed to Le Gray’s. 

Later, in 1878, Le Secq published his landscapes titled Etudes de premiers plans d’après nature. 

This Stream in the Forest is a remarkable example of the photographer’s art and showcases his skill in capturing realistic landscapes.

While touring Musée d’Orsay, here are some things to see around:

For all visitors planning to visit Musee d’Orsay, here is a list of tickets you can choose from. 

Dedicated entry ticket: This ticket offers dedicated entry to the museum with access to permanent and temporary collections. 
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Guided tour ticket: Enjoy a 1 hour 45 minutes guided tour and skip the line access to Musee d’Orsay.
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Musee d’Orsay and Seine River Cruise: Visitors can tour the Musee d’Orsay and then experience a cruise over the Seine. 
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Musee d’Orsay and Louvre Museum: This combination ticket offers entry to both Musee d’Orsay and Louvre Museum.
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Paris City Museum Pass: Visit the best museums in Paris with just one pass.
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About the author

Harshitha’s heart lies where greeny mountains meet stretches of beach. She believes getting lost is the best way to explore