Musee Marmottan Monet exhibits a large collection of Impressionist paintings including the world’s largest collection of Claude Monet masterpieces.
The museum is housed in a remodeled 1882 hunting lodge owned by Jules Marmottan who used the space to exhibit his art collection.
Jules Marmottan’s son Paul lived in the mansion after his father’s death and expanded the home to include even more artwork.
Paul Marmottan donated the entire art collection and two mansions to the French Academie des Beaux-Arts upon his death.
In 1957 the Marmottan Museum received a private collection from Victorine Donop de Monchy which included a vast selection of Impressionist painters such as Manet, Monet, Pissaro, Sisley and Renoir.
In 1966 Michel Monet donated his father’s house and gardens at Giverny to the French Academy of Fine Arts upon his death. He also donated 65 Claude Monet paintings to the Marmottan Museum.
The museum now owned the largest collection of Claude Monet paintings in the world and changed it’s name to the Musee Marmottan Monet .
In 1996 another donation was made by the Denis and Annie Rouart Foundation which included works by Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Henri Rouart.
“Born in Paris on August 26, 1856, Paul Marmottan studied law at the University of Aix. On graduating, in 1880, he was attached to the office of the prefect of the Vaucluse and worked as a trainee barrister in the appeal court of Paris. He was made a councilor for the Eure prefecture in November 1882 but, when his father died, he asked to be given leave and renounced his career as a senior public servant. He moved to Paris and in 1885 married Gabrielle Rheims. They divorced, childless, in 1894, and the death in 1904 of Marie Martin, whom he had planned to take as his second wife, left Marmottan without heirs and inclined to a solitary existence. A man of independent means, he spent his time studying history and the art of the 1789–1830 period. He became a prolific author and a recognized specialist in the Consulate and Empire periods, helping to rehabilitate its often overlooked art. His research as a historian informed his acquisitions as an art lover working to emulate his father and build up his own collection. Paul Marmottan assembled his first acquisitions in the pavilion, which building he redecorated in the Empire style throughout. There he displayed effigies of members of the emperor’s family in Carrara marble. The carefully chosen furniture came, notably, from the Tuileries Palace, one of Napoleon’s residences, and the Palazzo Reale di Portici in Naples, which had been furnished for Napoleon’s sister, Caroline, the wife of Prince Murat. Marmottan also assembled a rare and representative collection of the still classical “petits maîtres” of the post-Revolutionary decades, whose landscapes were the subject of his book L’École française de peinture (1789–1830), published in 1886. This authoritative ensemble was hung in the pavilion at the turn of the 20th century. Among other canvases, landscapes by Jean Victor Bertin (p. 66), Étienne Joseph Bouhot, Louis Gauffier, Adolphe Eugène Gabriel Roehn, and Jacques François Joseph Swebach (known as Swebach-Desfontaines) were assembled around his outstanding pieces: six representations of imperial residences painted in around 1810 by Jean Joseph Xavier Bidauld in collaboration with Carle Vernet and Louis Léopold Boilly. Marmottan was a Boilly specialist and had written a landmark monograph on this painter. Some thirty portraits by the artist have always hung in the main house, and it is surely no coincidence that his name should have been given to the street laid perpendicular to Avenue Raphaël, alongside the collector’s townhouse, in 1913.
Around 1910, Paul Marmottan acquired adjoining land in order to build an extension of his home. Also at this time, he modified the part of the townhouse showing his father’s collection in order to present his own acquisitions as well. He redesigned several salons in the main house which, before this intervention, one commentator (Potin, 1907) had compared to the cabinet at Chantilly, both for the age of the artworks and for the density of their hanging. The bedroom on the second floor, the current dining room, and the two round salons on the first floor are among the spaces that were transformed. The décor was designed by Marmottan himself, author of an authoritative volume on Le Style Empire. The rotunda through which visitors now enter the museum served as a vestibule at the time and was decorated in the Empire style with niches and marble sculptures. The decoration of the round salon giving onto the garden was entrusted to Gaston Cornu, whose letterhead describes him as a “specialist of moldings of all kinds and polychrome artistic imitations” (Archives Paul Marmottan, Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet). The artisan made a series of pilasters with fluted bases, ionic columns (using a model provided by Marmottan) and a sculpted frieze of griffons and garlands in stucco with partial gilding. In each of these salons, and in the current dining room, special care was taken over the doors, these being decorated with antique dancers and crowned with elegant stucco figures in Greek drapes standing out against solid colored grounds. To furnish these spacious rooms, Paul Marmottan made a number of significant acquisitions, foremost among which was a bed that once belonged to Napoleon I, the Chandelier with Musicians, the desk bearing the stamp of Pierre Antoine Bellangé, the monumental Portrait of the Duchess of Feltre and Her Children, and a remarkable “geographic clock” in Sèvres porcelain.
Paul Marmottan thought of this townhouse with its Empire salons and its picture gallery that in some ways was reminiscent of the old cabinets of curiosities as part of his greatest achievements. As well as Nélie Jacquemart-André before him, like Moïse de Camondo, Marmottan bequeathed his home to a cultural institution in order to preserve it and open it to the public, a task he entrusted to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which inherited the building and its collections at his death on March 15, 1932.
The Académie des Beaux-Arts, as it has been known since 1803, was founded in 1648 as the Académie Royale de Peinture to champion French art. Responsible for teaching and for organizing the Salon, it was devoted to preserving the national artistic tradition. The Paul Marmottan bequest extended its mission by making it the guardian of a significant part of the French heritage.
As one of the foundations of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the Musée Marmottan opened to the public on June 21, 1934. In keeping with its founder’s wishes, the small or ancillary rooms (kitchens, bathrooms, etc.) disappeared in order to create bigger spaces and facilitate visitor circulation. Apart from this physical adaptation, other changes awaited the museum as the aura of the Académie des Beaux-Arts attracted new donations and bequests. The museum enriched its collections and opened a new chapter in its history.
The art of the second half of the 19th century entered the Musée Marmottan in 1938. The drawings donated by the son of William Adolphe Bouguereau, one of the most prominent
academic painters of his day and a member of the Institut, and the studies bequeathed by the brother of naturalist painter Jules Bastien-Lepage (a former student of Alexandre Cabanel) were very much in line with the tradition embodied by the Académie des Beaux-Arts and championed by Marmottan. However, the donations made by Victorine and Eugène Donop de Monchy radically changed the situation. Victorine was born on April 15, 1863, the year the Duc de Valmy acquired the plot on which the townhouse was built at 20 Avenue Raphaël. With her husband, she was one of the first visitors to the Musée Marmottan. Childless, she decided to bestow upon it a large part of the collection she had inherited from her father, the doctor Georges de Bellio. War hastened her decision. Between 1940 and 1947, Victorine made several gifts by hand to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. These Asian objets d’art and paintings and drawings both ancient and modern illustrated the doctor’s eclectic tastes. And while The Drinker by Frans Hals and The Pipe Smoker by Dirck van Baburen were very much at home in Paul Marmottan’s former residence, the entrance of Impression, Sunrise along with ten other Impressionist canvases marked a major turning point. At a time when Doctor de Bellio was making a name for himself as one of the first supporters of Claude Monet and his friends, Paul Marmottan and the Académie des Beaux-Arts were fighting them. In his foreword to L’École française de peinture (1789–1830), Marmottan was unambiguous in condemning his contemporaries: “One does not draw, one sketches; one does not paint, one brushes. That is the most prominent tendency of the day. . . . This slackening comes above all from extreme ignorance or the indulgence of art lovers, who are happy to look merely for the impression” (Marmottan, 1886). For its part, the Académie closed the Salon to these young painters after 1870, with the result that they decided to organize their own exhibitions. It was during the first of these, in 1874, that Impression, Sunrise inspired the critic Louis Leroy to come up with the caustic term impressionniste. With the entrance into the museum of those eleven Impressionist canvases in 1940, the Académie was at last recognizing the value of Impressionism. Moreover, in doing so it had become the owner and guardian of the work that gave the group its name. The arrival of canvases by Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Armand Guillaumin was duly celebrated. They formed the cornerstone of the Musée Marmottan’s Impressionist collections.
Thanks to Michel Monet, the Impressionist collection would soon become one of the museum’s great riches. The younger son of Claude Monet, and the only son after the death of his brother Jean in 1914, he was his sole descendant, heir to the house in Giverny and all the works it contained, when the painter died in 1926. He thus received the paintings and drawings by masters and friends that his father had collected, including Eugène Delacroix, Eugène Boudin, Johan Barthold Jongkind, Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir, and Morisot. Above all, Michel inherited his father’s late works. Most of these were part of an ensemble of monumental canvases of water lilies. Between 1914 and 1926, Claude Monet painted 125 large panels, a selection of which he donated to his country, France. Monet refused to let this gift be revealed during his lifetime and what we now know as the Water Lilies of the Orangerie were not seen by the public until 1927. The exhibition caused a scandal; Monet’s last work then went into art historical purgatory. Michel, who owned the largest part of what remained from this great ensemble, found he was the owner of an inheritance that was denigrated. His efforts to rehabilitate the big Water Lilies had little impact in France, and the national museums bought none of the works he put on the market. This is one of the reasons why he decided against bequeathing his collection to the state. Instead, the childless Michel made the Musée Marmottan his sole legatee. When he died, in 1966, over a hundred Monets, including a unique ensemble of large-format Water Lilies, were added to the institution’s collection. Since the salons of Paul Marmottan’s townhouse were too small to show works on such a scale, a new room was specially designed under the garden. In 1970, these canvases, most of which had never been shown, were put on display. They form the world’s biggest collection of works by Claude Monet. The home of Paul Marmottan had grown and was now also the home of the father of Impressionism. The museum became known as the Musée Marmottan Monet.”