Musée d'Orsay: Charles Garnier (1825-1898) : Architect of the Opera

Charles Garnier (1825-1898) : Architect of the Opera

Paul BaudryCharles Garnier© RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Franck Raux
Born Rue Mouffetard in Paris of humble artisan origins, Charles Garnier entered the Fine Arts school and was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome in 1848.

Discovering Italy, Greece and Turkey, he then definitively established his calling : "There is no choosing between the arts, one must be God or an architect". In 1860, then a 35-year-old unknown young man, Charles Garnier won the competition to design the new Opera house. Building the Opera provided its architect with immediate fame. The construction took fifteen years, through a variety of troubles, including the 1870 war, the fall of the Second Empire and the Commune. The Opera would be inaugurated on January 5th, 1875 by the Maréchal de Mac Mahon.

The pieces presented in the documentary exhibition - architectural drawings, paintings, photographs of the building site - bear testimony to the singlemindedness of design, the bold generosity and the accuracy of Charles Garnier's work and that of the team of artists he assembled.

A believer in the unity of a work of art, Garnier submitted and integrated to the architecture the arts that participated in the decoration of the monument.

The Opera's functional lines, the classical disposition of the diverse parts which constituted it were hidden by the wealth of paintings, sculptures and stucco work, but this exuberance was thoroughly mastered by the architect. A masterpiece of the official art of the Second Empire, the Opera was equally a master piece of the new Paris devised by Haussmann and Napoleon the 3rd.


Martine Kahane, Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra and Henri Loyrette, Musée d'Orsay

13 March - 10 June 1990
Musée d'Orsay

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