Rather than an anniversary, this book marks a rebirth. Indeed the Musée d'Orsay is celebrating its twenty five years of existence as a museum but above all, following two years of renovation work, new areas, entirely renovated and redesigned, are being inaugurated. The new rhythm given to presentation, the sometimes unprecedented parallels, the confrontations with other disciplines and the new issues that arise from these, all displayed with the help of a museography that takes full advantage of plays on colour and the latest technology in the field of lighting, will offer visitors a new, vivid outlook again and again upon returning to the museum.
Within a quarter of a century, the Musée d'Orsay has been able to leave its mark in the long term thanks to its success and unique destiny. Even if we consider only its paintings – the subject matter of this book –, the museum has no equivalent and covers the arts of the period ranging from 1840 to 1914 as no other institution does. This privilege is owed firstly to the wealth of its collections, in which the memory of its great collectors outweighs the action of the State, so cautious in the field of "modern" art from the Second Empire onwards. But the genuine singularity of the museum is precisely that it gives us access to an entire period in the history of art, giving equal attention to each of some of the most successful artists of all time, from Manet to Matisse, and those who were left aside, from Couture to Bonnat. As stated in the Bible, the last have become the first. The favourites of the ministries, from the 1848 Revolution to the first world war, have now been distanced by the "refused" of the administration.
With over 300 pieces reproduced in a large Italian format, this book presents an overview of the history of painting in the second half of the nineteenth century, with 24 notes on key works and essays on the main thematic and artistic movements of the period.