What the press defined as “the most beautiful museum in Europe” is to be found on the left bank of the Seine, where the State Audit Court originally stood in 1870; it was then destroyed during the Commune. In 1898 the Paris-Orleans railway company assigned the building of the new station to Victor Laloux. The work was carried out in two years so that the Gare d’Orsay was ready for the universal exhibition held in 1900. Laloux designed a grandiose nave 135 meters by 40 meters, the metal structure of which was skilfully covered on the outside by light-colored stuccowork. The interior not only housed the sixteen platforms but also restaurants and an elegant hotel with at least 400 rooms.
Abandoned in 1939, the Gare d’Orsay went on a slow decline under the specter of demolition: Orson Welles’s cultural revival with the filming of The Trial or the establishment of Jean-Louis Barrault’s company there were of no avail. In 1973 the French President at the time, Georges Pompidou, declared it a national monument and saw to it that a museum displaying the half-century of art that goes from Napoleon Ill’s Second Empire to the beginnings of Cubism was up there. It proved to be a perfect link between the Louvre, a temple of ancient art, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, a temple of modern art.
The tender for the contract for its restructuring commenced in 1978 and was won by the ACT group; the Italian architect, Mrs. Gae Aulenti, was entrusted with interior decorating. Nowadays more than 4,000 works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and furniture are exhibited in over 45,000 square meters.
The ground floor features paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from 1850 to 1870, with works by Ingres, Delacroix, Manet, Puvis de Chavannes and Gustave Moreau whereas Impressionist paintings ( Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas and Manet ), Personnaz, Gachet and Guillaumin collections and Post-Impressionist paintings with masterpieces by Seurat, Si-gnac, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Van Gogh and the Nabis group ( Bonnard, Vuillard and Vallotton ) are displayed on the top floor.
Lastly, the middle floor features art from 1870 to 1914, with the official art of the III Republic, Symbolism, academic painting, and the decorative arts of the Art Nouveau period, with Guimard, Emile Galle, and the School of Nancy.