Les Musées de Paris: Gustave Moreau Museum

Gemma King - Gustave Moreau museum - www.MyFrenchLife.orgCity of love, city of lights, city of wine, city of fashion: Paris is all these things. But it is also the city of museums, and after years of living in France, I still haven’t discovered them all.

Everybody has heard of the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Pompidou Centre, and with good reason. For those who have a few days in Paris, a visit to these museums will give you a good overview of France’s artistic background and of art and history in general.

If you find yourself with a little time on your hands, we’ll help you scout out the smaller, lesser-known museums Paris has to offer. Each spot has its own charm, be it a focus on a particular individual or movement, an incredible private collection or a gorgeous setting, such as a nineteenth-century residence in all its belle époque splendour. City of museums indeed.

This time we discover the intrigue of the ninth arrondissement…

The National Gustave Moreau Museum

Gemma King - Gustave Moreau museum - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Every so often somebody asks me what my favourite area of Paris is. As an avid explorer of the city, this is a difficult question to answer. Sometimes I’m tempted to choose my current stomping ground in the first arrondissement, or the calm corner of the fifteenth where I lived when I first moved to France. There is always a special place in my heart for the Lamarck-Caulaincourt area of Montmartre.

But if I’m honest with myself, it’s none of these picturesque places. It’s an unlikely pocket of the ninth arrondissement, nestled in between the bustling Saint Lazare and the seedy Pigalle: Saint Georges.

Off the beaten track…

Saint Georges is surprisingly pretty, tranquil and filled with marvels. Narrow meandering streets are lined with quaint restaurants, cafés, little boutiques filled with handmade treasures, and my favourite épicerie, Causses. They stock some of the best cheese in the city. The area is home to the lovely Museum of Romantic Life, and the window-shopping mecca of rue Henri Monnier.

My favourite spot in the ninth is one I came across on a weekend stroll several years ago: the National Gustave Moreau Museum.

A well-kept Paris secret

I associate my visit to the Moreau museum with a feeling of discovery. There is something so private and secretive about the unassuming little museum, tucked away in a small residential street. Even on a Saturday afternoon, I don’t remember many people being there at all. There was no street noise, no queue for tickets, no bustling crowd elbowing for space. It is a peaceful, quiet sanctuary.

Gemma King - Gustave Moreau museum - www.MyFrenchLife.org

Beautiful French interiors

The museum has several rooms on the lower floors dedicated to Moreau’s apartments If you are interested in learning more about Moreau’s life you will not be disappointed here. However the true attractions of the museum are the two lofty halls, located one on top of the other, connected by a wonderfully decadent spiral staircase.

These halls, filled with brilliant natural light, are floor to ceiling, salon style, with paintings and drawings of all sizes. There are intricate, miniscule etchings and drawers full of sketches. Indeed, some of the canvases are gigantic, and more than a few of them stopped me in my tracks.

The French Symbolist painter Moreau must have been a tortured fellow. Populated by sinister figures, darkly sexual scenes, surreal compositions, nudity and violence, his work is shadowy and menacing. Yet it is also beautiful, and all the more intriguing for its strangeness. Much like the little corner of Paris the museum is hidden away in.

Have you ever visited the Gustave Moreau musée? Join the conversation in the comments box below.

Image credits:
1 & 2. © Gemma King
3. Prométhée, via the National Gustave Moreau Museum.

About the Contributor

Gemma King

I’m a Lecturer in French Studies at the Australian National University specialising in contemporary French cinema and museums. You can read my blog 'Les Musées de Paris' and find me on Twitter here.

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