Exhibitions off-site

Les Arpenteurs de rêves (Surveyors of Dreams)
Drawings from the Musée d’Orsay

From December 15th, 2022 to March 13th, 2023 -
Quimper, Museum of Fine Arts
Map & itinerary
Gustave Doré
La nuit de Noël
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Gérard Blot
The 19th century was known as the “century of paper”, in which the graphic arts featured prominently in the work of artists represented in the Musée d’Orsay’s collections. They include such major names as Millet, Degas, Redon, Seurat and Moreau, all of whom will figure in the selection made from the tens of thousands of sheets, hundreds of notebooks and pastels conserved at Orsay and on special exhibition at the Quimper Museum of Fine Arts. Due to these works’ sensitivity to light, they are kept in storage and are seldom on view to the public.

All imaginable forms of drawing practice will be included , from incomprehensible drafts that the artist preserved as they were useful to his project’s progress, to finely crafted drawings and pastels, finished works in themselves, by way of notations, sketches, studies, copies, etc. All the period’s drawing techniques will also be widely represented : pastel, sanguine, charcoal, lead pencil, graphite, metal tip, chalk, watercolor, gouache, oil thinned with turpentine, inks, and oil on paper, along with prints, as the period was marked by the revival of etching and the development of lithography as well as being the golden age of illustration.


The project designed for Quimper and Evian is theme-based, with its common thread  being a journey by and through the artists’ imaginations, without confining them to movements but weaving dialogues by free association between their drawings instead. Hence, the term “arpenteur” (surveyor) refers to movement: the movement of the hand that draws lines. Plans, journeys, returns, pentimenti and resumptions are all integral parts of drawing practice. With no predetermined path : the exhibition therefore considers drawing as a place for experiment and hesitation, where doubt remains clear for all to see. You can make out the artist’s journey in it, a journey that may end in something else, a painting, a decoration, a sculpture, an object, a piece of architecture, but the journey usually has no goal, or no other goal than to draw better, better capture form, better give substance to their dreams, and sometimes pure pleasure and recreation. “Arpenteur” therefore expresses the idea of the dynamism of drawing, its inchoate, progressive aspect.


The exhibition will also be an invitation to travel, not so much on a scenic journey as on a journey into the imagination. The term “rêves” is to be understood in the broad sense: the inner world, fantasy, daydreams, reverie and creative imagination. Artists draw “the map of the imaginary world (which) is only drawn in dreams” (Charles Nodier, Rêveries). They break into the “second life”, which is what dream is, and make their way through “those gates of ivory or horn which separate us from the invisible world.”(Gérard de Nerval, Aurélia). Thanks to the power of the imagination, they create “a new world” related to the infinite (Charles Baudelaire, Salon of 1859, III, “The queen of faculties”).


  • Project designed by the Musée d’Orsay, based on its collection of drawings;
  • exhibition organized with the exceptional support of the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, coproduced with the Palais Lumière in Evian, where it was presented from July 2nd to November 1st, 2022.

The exhibition is now over.

See the whole program

Exhibition artworks