Big City Tales

The Many Marvels of Musee d’Orsay

June 12, 2018
Leave a Comment

When the Gare d’Orsay railway station first opened in 1900, its Beaux-Arts design was the talk of the town in Paris. Chief amongst its admirers was local painter Edouard Detaille, who prophetically penned that the station had the appearance of an art gallery. Little did he know that some 86 years later the station would, in fact, be converted to an art museum, and some of his own prized works would be hung on its walls. The remarkable journey from station to museum is just one of the many marvels of Musee d’Orsay that highlights mostly French painters and sculptors, but also includes masterpieces from notable international artists such as Klimt, Munch, van Gogh and Whistler.

Dorsay 1

Amazing Architectural Backdrop

In taking on the station to museum conversion project, the ACT Architecture group was fortunate to have a building with ‘good bones’ that just needed a little tweaking in order to best serve its new purpose. With its high, vaulted ceiling and long, narrow main corridor bathed in natural light and accented by decorative plasters and arches, the designers stayed true to the original station look and layout while adding 20,000 square metres of new floor space.

The Main Hall consists of large, sumptuous sculptures in the central nave that are flanked with numerous side galleries where paintings and other smaller works are displayed. Along the far wall, the opulent and ornate D’Orsay clock designed by Victor Laloux for the original railway station is still mounted and is a work of art in and of itself.

The upper floor features a wide terrace that overlooks the Main Hall below and opens into additional galleries containing more paintings, photographs and a variety of decorative arts.

Homegrown Talent

French artists such as Cabanel, Couture, Delacroix, Fantin-Latour, Ingres, Tissot and de Toulouse-Lautrec amongst a host of others feature prominently in the Musee D’Orsay’s collection of paintings that cover the time period 1848-1914. Selected highlights include The Birth of Venus by Cabanel; Romans during the Decadence by Couture, and In Bed by de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masters

The Musee D’Orsay contains the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, including many works by Cezanne, Degas, Gaugin, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Renoir, Rousseau, Seurat, Sisley, van Gogh and other masters.

Poppy Field by Monet and Starry Night over the Rhone by van Gogh are some of the famous works displayed in the galleries.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Tiptoe Through More Than Just the Tulips in Amsterdam

March 9, 2018
Leave a Comment

There is no denying that flower markets are a top attraction in Amsterdam but there is certainly more than just tulips to tiptoe through in this bustling and highly diverse port city.

Of course, do soak up the sights and smells of the world-famous floating flower market on the Singel Canal but be sure to also take the time to traverse the Venice-like canal system, stroll across the Skinny Bridge, and wander around museums containing myriad works of the Dutch Masters. Enjoy a shopping spree at the market in Rembrandt Square and sneak a peek at the Red Light district. Along the way, be sure to appreciate the charm, character and culture of this truly colourful capital.

amsterdam 2

Venice of the North

Amsterdam’s canal system dates back to the 14th century but the bulk of its development occurred during the city’s “Golden Age” in the 1600s. Intended to be more than just a  beautification project, the canals, bridges and surrounding walkways are vital to the orderly conducting of traffic in the city’s hub and its outlying neighbourhoods. The canals also provide an ideal living space for those who occupy houseboats, and are the perfect venue for outdoor recreational activities and special events.

amsterdam 13

Skinny Bridge

As one of the prettiest bridges in Amsterdam that crosses the Amstel River, the Skinny Bridge (or Magere Brug) is known for its double-swipe design that enables it to be opened on two sides to allow for boats to pass through.

The bridge is also popular due to the varying stories of its nickname’s origin. One legend indicates that it stems from two sisters named Mager (which is also the Dutch word for “skinny”) who lived on opposite sides of the river and they had the bridge built so that they could easily visit each other; another suggests that it comes from the fact that the original design of the bridge was very narrow.

Whichever story you prefer, the bridge is a busy crossing point for pedestrians and boat operators. While waiting your turn to pass through you can marvel at its technology and ponder its mysterious name.

amsterdam 10

Dutch Masters 

The Netherlands has produced some of the world’s most renowned painters who have dazzled the arts community for centuries. Two of the most celebrated are Rembrandt and Van Gogh and their works are showcased in Amsterdam museums and monuments.

The Rijksmuseum contains 20 of Rembrandt’s masterpieces such as ‘The Night Watch’ and many of his self-portraits. Rembrandt Square features a large statue of the artist looking over a bronze-cast representation of the Night Watch figures that was created to mark the occasion of Rembrandt’s 400th birthday in 2006.

The Van Gogh Museum features the largest collection of the artist’s work in the world, including 200 original paintings and some 800 letters that he wrote mostly to his brother, Theo, but also to fellow artists such as Paul Gaugin.

A Colourful Cultural Capital

Amsterdam has come a long way from its beginnings as a humble fishing village that eventually emerged as a major trade and financial centre in the 17th century. The city has drawn an eclectic mix of people and professions to its borders making it one of the world’s most multicultural places.

In addition to promoting its diversity, the city shows off its rich national heritage and cultural icons. Even on the cloudiest of days, tourists will be cheered by the copious colour of homes and businesses; bikes, boats and buses; and souvenir displays that beckon at every turn and, yes, highlight more than just tulips.