Global Galleries: Musée national Gustave Moreau

Tucked away in the 9th arrondissement of Paris is Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau’s former villa and studio. Packed with hundreds of his paintings, watercolours, and drawings, it is a true feast for the senses

Often when googling the best galleries to go to in France’s capital, those with international prestige such as the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou pop up, without a mention for the countless hidden gems, which offer a more intimate and unique visitor experience, away from the crowds. Musée national Gustave Moreau is definitely one of these spots.

In 1895. the artist commissioned the architect Albert Lafon to transform his family home into a museum. The living space remains the same as it was in Moreau’s day as he turned it into a ‘sentimental museum’, displaying his family memorabilia, art works, and souvenirs from his childhood. The second and third floors were converted into spacious studios. You can’t miss the grand spiral staircase that connects the two studio floors, giving the place a real sense of elegance. The three-storey house’s walls are covered top to bottom with his spectacular Symbolist works, aiming to transport the viewer to another world, to make them dream rather than think. 

The place still very much breathes the 19th century and Moreau’s love for mythological beauty. So as a visitor, you almost feel like you have stepped back in time and are sharing the intimate life of the painter and his works in the privacy of his own home. Particularly through his graphic art collection, comprising an outstanding 4,830 drawings, which are exhibited in glass units with pivoting shutters that can be leafed through like a book by visitors. Here you get the rare opportunity to get up really close to his works and understand the artist’s passion for drawing and the essential role that it played in the development of his paintings.

This hidden gem attracted the likes of surrealists André Breton and Salvador Dalí, becoming a symbolic ‘Dalinian’ place for Dalí that would inspire him to create his own museum at Figueres in Spain. 

If you know of and enjoy Moreau’s work, you simply must visit. If you don’t know his work yet and know little about the Symbolist movement, this is the best place to get acquainted. There are leaflets in many languages around the house giving information about his works and life, making it an informative experience also.

Musée national Gustave Moreau, 14 Rue Catherine de La Rochefoucauld, 75009 Paris, France; musee-moreau.fr

By Scarlet Bailey Tait. Scarlet is based in London and specialises in writing about art

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