Built in the year 1900 by Victor Laloux, the Orsay train station was meant to service the Orleans train company. Unfortunately, the the trains were unable to use this station because the platforms were not long enough. After being used for a variety of purposes, this 50,000 square meter building was remodeled into an art museum that would cover works of art from 1850 to 1914. The conversion of this abandoned train station, the Gare d'Orsay, into the Musee d'Orsay marked a major advance in the reorganization of the different collections of art. The museum is devoted to all art forms from the second half of the 19th century (painting, sculpture, architecture, music and items from everyday life). Significant Impressionist and neo-lmpressionist works are on display, as well as the creations of the more conservative academic school that was also known as Pompier in France. Art-Nouveau objects and blue-prints complement the collections.
The giant, 32 meter high and 140 meter long main hall of the station, artfully surrounded by a delicate iron construction enabling the abundant use of glass, was deserted. By the 1960s, the dilapidation had progressed to the point that Orson Welles chose it as a backdrop for his filming of Kafka's "The Trial." In 1971 it was decided to raze the building. Fortunately, this did not occur and during Georges Pompidou's term of office as president, the idea emerged to transform the train station into a museum. His successor, Giscard d'Estaing, eventually gave the go ahead for the time consuming, expensive renovations. The work began in 1980 at a cost to the taxpayer of 270 million dollars.
The collection is made up mostly from the late works of the Louvre and the impressionist paintings from the nearby museum, Jeu de Paume. You can also find works from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, chronologically bridging the Louvre and the Pompidou. Displayed on the ground floor are earlier works of sculpture devoted to dance. The hall has two rows of smaller rooms which are filled with works by Daumier, Millet, Rousseau, Corot and peasant paintings. In the last room, you will find works by Courbet. If you like Monet, there is a room dedicated to him. Other artists represented are Bazille, Delacroix, Puvis de Chavanne, Degas and Gustave Moreau.
On the second floor you can view popular art of the nineteenth century and rooms with furniture and decorations by well-respected "fin-de-siecle painters" (Monet, Pissaro, Renoir, Degas, Sisley and Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec). The building is extremely large and there are many works on display. It is advised to start on the ground level with the impressionist painters and then take the escalators to the upper floor to see the impressionists and their successors.