Where to Find Impressionist Art in Paris
Pioneered by Paris-based artists including Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Paul Cézanne beginning in the 1860s, impressionism began as a radical art movement seeking to get away from the strictures of the Academy and move towards a new naturalism and presence in art-making. Today, we’re so used to seeing impressionist works that it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary they once were—and that “modern art” as we know it wouldn’t exist without them.
So why not plan a trip to Paris to reacquaint yourself with the masterworks? Below are six essential Paris-area destinations for lovers of impressionist art, from the galleries built to house Monet’s Water Lilies series to the bohemian enclaves where the artists themselves lived and worked.
A one-stop shop for impressionism.
If you only have time for one impressionist art stop in Paris, make it the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in a grand former train station that overlooks the Seine, the museum is a major monument in its own right—and is home to the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artworks.
Highlights include iconic works such as Édouard Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe and Pierre-August Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette; book a guided tour to learn the stories behind the canvases—or a private tour for an even more personalized experience.
Musée de l’Orangerie
For "Water Lilies" fans.
Just a short stroll through the Tuileries Gardens from the Louvre, the smaller-scale Musée de l’Orangerie is dedicated to impressionist and post-impressionist art. Works by artists like Renoir, Matisse, Cézanne, and Pissarro are all on display here, and the museum describes its mission as exploring—much like the impressionists themselves—“the tension between tradition and modernity.”
But no other work rivals Monet’s Water Lilies series. Described as “the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism,” the eight monumental paintings are housed in a purpose-built gallery that showcases their splendor in full force. Book skip-the-line entry in advance to make your visit seamless.
Musée Marmottan Monet
Monet diehards won’t want to miss this one.
Speaking of Monet: if you can’t get enough of the master, be sure to continue your artistic adventuring at the Musée Marmottan Monet which, true to name, is dedicated to his oeuvre. Less frequented than the Musée d’Orsay, the museum is nevertheless home to one of Paris’ finest collections of impressionist works, including hundreds of pieces by Monet as well as canvases by other luminaries including Berthe Morisot and Paul Gauguin. On a small-group, skip-the-line tour, you’ll come face-to-face with many of these marvels—and will learn more about Monet and his contemporaries.
Musée de Montmartre
Art fans of all stripes will find something to appreciate.
It’s worth visiting many of Paris’ top museums to see the impressionists’ masterworks. But if you want to follow in their footsteps, make your way to the hilltop neighborhood of Montmartre, which long cultivated a bohemian reputation—and has been a magnet for artists and creatives of all stripes for centuries.
The Musée de Montmartre, housed in former studios once frequented by Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, and other artists, is the perfect place to begin. After learning about the neighborhood’s history (and seeing works in its collection by Toulouse-Lautrec and others), you can stroll in the Renoir Gardens—and then continue on a walking tour to nearby artistic highlights.
Île de Chatou
Escape the city for some impressionist art.
The Île de Chatou—also known as the Île des Impressionnistes—is a small island in the Seine located just west of Paris city limits. The island earned its moniker because it was a popular escape for artists including Monet and Renoir, and today its charming Musée Fournaise chronicles that aspect of its history. The museum’s collection features impressionist artworks, while its balcony may look familiar—it was immortalized in Renoir’s masterpiece, Le Déjeuner des canotiers. Beyond its doors, the museum’s Impressionist Trail invites further exploration.
To feel like you’re part of a real-life impressionist painting.
If you have some time to spare, it’s worth continuing westwards along the Seine to the idyllic hamlet of Giverny: famously home to Monet’s studio and gardens (and now a museum, the Fondation Claude Monet), Giverny is an impressionist crown jewel. If you visit during the spring or summer months in particular, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into one of Monet’s canvases—the garden’s bridge and lush vegetation were immortalized in many of his works. Embark on a private, art historian-led tour for an immersive and informative way to explore.