by Nick Trend and Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, May 31, 2019
Visitors to Paris this week who wish to explore the Louvre have been warned to book tickets online or face being turned away as the museum struggles to deal with overcrowding.
The world-famous gallery was closed all day on Monday after staff walked out over working conditions, leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded in queues outside. The Sud Culture Solidaires union said: “The Louvre is suffocating.”
On Wednesday the museum opened late following a crisis meeting between staff, security and management. The union says a huge influx in the number of visitors has led to a “unprecedented deterioration” in conditions for both guests and staff.
The museum said that only booking online “can guarantee your entrance”, and that high numbers of visitors “are expected in the coming days”. “For this reason, we strongly recommend buying tickets online to ensure entry to the museum,” it said.
Last year, 10.2million people visited the Louvre in central Paris, a national and world record, and a figure expected to grow again this year.
“While the audience has increased by more than 20 per cent since 2009,” the Sud Culture Solidaires union said, “the palace has not expanded.”
Though the Louvre is undoubtedly one of the greatest draws of Paris, boasting work by Rembrandt, the Venus de Milo and artefacts from ancient Mesopotamia (not to mention, of course, the Mona Lisa), there is a wealth of art outside its walls across the city.
Below are four quiet alternatives in Paris where you can enjoy some of the world’s finest art, minus the crowds.
1. Musée Marmottan Monet
This extraordinary museum on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne was built as an extremely grand hunting lodge by the Duke of Valmy in the 19th century. The upper two floors, furnished in period style, house a high-quality and varied collection of paintings, which stretches from Medieval illuminations, to work by Caillebot (Paris street in the rain 1877), Manet, Cezanne and Degas, and two major galleries of paintings by Berthe Morisot, who was married to Manet’s brother Eugene.
But it is the open-plan downstairs gallery that most visitors come to visit. This houses perhaps the most important collection of paintings by Monet anywhere, donated by his son, Michel, in 1966. Here is the canvas which gave the movement its name: Impression: Soleil Levant (1872), and about 20 of the late garden and water lily paintings. Several of the key scenes and themes which fascinated him are also represented, including versions of Rouen Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster, and some curiosities such as the landscapes from his trips to Norway in 1895, the Dutch tulip fields in 1877, and a fabulous account of steam trains at Gare St Lazare from 1877. There is also an early portrait of him by Renoir of 1873 - the year before the first Impressionist exhibition.
Open: Tues to Sun, 10am-6pm (9pm Thurs)
2. Musée Jacquemart Andre
This museum is testimony to the taste of a pair of 19th-century connoisseurs, banking heir Edouard André and his artist wife Nélie Jacquemart, who scoured the continent for artistic treasures and housed them in their extravagant mansion built for the purpose. A series of salons and the galleried music room contain paintings by Boucher, Fragonard, Nattier and Canaletto, while the library has a lovely small Rembrandt, and the smoking room is hung with English portraits. Upstairs in the "Italian museum" are a Botticelli Virgin and Child, and a tiny Uccello. Finish with lunch or tea in the elegant café, under a Tiepolo ceiling.
Open: Everyday 10am-6pm (8.30pm Mon)
3. Le Petit Palais
Another under visited museum, the Petit Palais is one of the very few in Paris to offer free admittance to all. It’s essentially an arts and crafts museum, originally built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 as a pair with the Grand Palais, opposite.
The opening theme of the visit - Paris in 1900 - chimes well with the Impressionist era and it includes two galleries of high-quality paintings, including Cezanne’s Three Bathers, Renoir’s Portrait of Mme Bonnières, and Monet’s wonderful Setting Sun on the Seine at Lavacourt of 1878, which is reminiscent of the Impression: Sun Rising canvas painted six years previously.
Open: Tues to Sun, 10am-6pm (9pm Fri)
4. Musée Nissim de Camondo
The Nissim de Camondo is a “hotel particulier” - a grand town house designed by architect Rene Sergent - which displays the remarkable collection of paintings and furniture amassed by its former owner, Moise de Camondo, during the Belle Epoque. So not only does one see fabulous art, but also gets a sense of the lifestyle - from the kitchen and study to its grand drawing room - of the Paris elite when the city was at its cultural peak.
Open: Wed to Sun, 10am to 5.30pm