While we were in Paris two months ago — was it already two months ago?! — PJ, James, and I visited the Musee d’Orsay, which is now one of my favorite museums. The museum is housed in a renovated train station, a fabulously renovated train station, that is. I tried to get a good picture of the inside of the museum, but I was still learning how to use my camera. Here’s the best one I took:

Musee d'Orsay

Besides this main area, there are two floors of rooms off of this main hall and an additional floor that doesn’t branch off of this main area. Architecturally, it’s a magnificent space for art. It really succeeds in a way that I think the Tate Modern, another great museum, doesn’t.

There are too many works here that I loved to write about them all, so I’ll just have to hit the highlights. One of my favorites is Jason et Médée by Gustave Moreau:

Jason et medee

I love everything about this painting. First, I love the golden colors of the painting, mimicking the golden fleece. Second, I love that Jason and Medea’s nudity evokes (to me, at least) Adam and Eve. I love the youthful masculinity of Jason’s body in this work. He’s young, but he’s a man. And finally, I really, really love that his nudity is covered by a scarf tied to evoke genitalia. It’s suffused with youthful energy and eroticism. I love it!

Another great painting is Théodule Ribot’s The Martyrdom of St Sebastian:

Saint Sebastien

Most images of Saint Sebastian are the same — young man tied to a post stuck full of arrows. I like that this one is not only different but even more macabre. The two men picking at his insides, the dirt of his feet, and the feather from the arrow make this painting so modern.

One of the paintings that most fascinated (and embarrassed) the school children who were also visiting the museum was Gustave Courbet’s L’origine du monde.

Origin of the World

This painting, Origin of the World, is startling when you first see it. Wikipedia has an interesting essay about it and the model who posed for it. As a gay man, I find this picture to be especially startling!

I also liked Pierre Bonnard’s L’homme et le femme.

This painting is different from my usual taste — the brush strokes are less detailed than I usually like. What I like about it, though, is its depiction of such a common event, a man and woman alone together just before or after coitus, in such a matter of fact way. It’s frankness, however, seems almost depressing to me. We’re peeking into someone’s bedroom, but what we see isn’t exactly erotic or even happy. I love the ambiguity of this tone.

I also liked a lot of portraits in the museum’s collection, but I’ve run out of time to write about them now. Maybe I’ll have to have a part 2 to this post. Regardless, the Musee d’Orsay is certainly in contention for one of my best museum visits this year as well as one of my favorites ever. It’s a great, great museum. (It also has an excellent restaurant with an efficiently courteous–and attractive–staff!)

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