The Musée d'Orsay deplores the loss of a great figure of French museums and art history.
Françoise Cachin passed away in the night of 4 to 5 February. She had been the Musée d'Orsay's first director, from 1986 to 1994, and had given it its first decisive impetus.
The granddaughter of the Neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac, to whom she devoted a catalogue raisonné published in 2000, and of Marcel Cachin, founder of the French communist party, she was the daughter of the pediatrician Charles Cachin and Ginette Signac, a generous donator to French museums. As a result, the Musée d'Orsay has the honor of displaying Henri Edmond Cross's The Evening Air and Paul Signac's Entrance to the Harbour in La Rochelle, offered to national museums by her mother in 1976.
Turning at first to Modern Art, Françoise Cachin worked as a curator at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in the Palais de Tokyo, and then at the Pompidou Centre. She was the curator of a remarkable Paul Klee retrospective in 1969. In 1978, she was among the first to join the Musée d’Orsay's prefiguration team, then directed by Michel Laclotte, notably working on the 1981 Pissarro exhibition, under the auspices of the future museum, and preparing the Manet retrospective presented at the Grand Palais in 1983, the catalogue of which remains a reference to this day.
Appointed director of the Musée d'Orsay, in December 1986, a few days after its opening, she rapidly ensured the museum's international reputation by endowing it with a programme of ambitious exhibitions and an unparalleled cultural policy. At the same time, she organized no less than two landmark exhibitions: Gauguin in 1989 and Seurat in 1991. It is also to her credit that the project of circulating in France the most famous but almost secret Barnes collection was initiated. She was also able to develop close links with the donor Philippe Meyer, who has considerably contributed to the enrichment of the museum collections on many occasions.
After eight years at the head of the museum, she became director of french museums in 1994 and contributed to the "museums' law". During this period of time, she even managed to find the time to pursue her specialty and organised the Signac exhibition at the Grand Palais in 2001. After leaving her functions in 2001, she took part in the founding of FRAME (French Régional and American Museum Exchange), which she chaired until 2007.
She will be remembered as a great woman, with strongly held views. Certain clear cut positions will be recalled with, in particular, an article entitled "The museums are not for sale" published in Le Monde in 2007 and countersigned by Jean Clair and Roland Recht. She will also remain famous for her exceptional eye and a unequalled intellectual openness. To this day, the catalogues Manet, Gauguin and Seurat, of which she was the author, are considered as must-have books to which we all have made reference. The Musée d'Orsay was about to pay homage to her on the occasion of an exceptional event: the exhibition Manet, the Man who Invented Modern Art, which is set to open in less than two months.
Guy Cogeval, director of the public establishment of the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie