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150 Years of Impressionism - Exhibitions in Paris

Exactly 150 years ago, a new art movement was born in Paris: Impressionism. The Musée d'Orsay in Paris is dedicating two very different exhibitions to this topic:

Impressionism Exhibitions Paris Musée d'Orsay France 150 Outdoor

1. In "Paris 1874 Inventing impressionism" visitors can see some of the original works that were first exhibited in 1874 until July 14, 2024.

2. "Tonight with the Impressionists Paris 1874" is an immersive virtual reality exhibition that runs through August 11.

I visited both exhibitions:

Paris, April 15th - an Impressionism exhibition will take place at 8pm on the Boulevard des Capucines in the Studio Zadar. Not just any Impressionism exhibition, but the first one, and the one that would make the Impressionists and their innovative painting style famous worldwide.

Almost like real: The immersive exhibition "Tonight with the Impressionists Paris 1874"

"Come with us for an evening with the Impressionists," says Alizé Lecuivre, Creative Head of Gedeon Experience. However, she doesn't take us to the Boulevard des Capucines, but to the Musée d'Orsay. We don't see any pictures at first. The walls are printed with black, white and grey icons and surfaces. A lady adjusts our virtual reality headset. An immersive exhibition: Immersive immersion - the visitors are supposed to immerse themselves in Impressionism. In this case, we immerse ourselves in the famous evening on April 15th 150 years ago.

“Unfortunately, there are no records of what the exhibition looked like at that time.

In order to recreate the rooms in as much detail as possible, we studied, like detectives, land surveys, aerial photographs of the district, the exhibition catalogue and letters from the artists," says Alizé.

Time travel to Paris 1874 - Gallery Zadar

Immersive Impressionists Exhibition Paris Virtual Reality Musée d'Orsay

As soon as the glasses are adjusted, the journey through time begins: we meet Rose on the street, who takes us to the exhibition. Rose is of course not a living figure, but modelled in 3-D. We can walk around her and even through her. Together we stroll through the exhibition and visit the places that marked the beginnings of the movement, such as the studio of the painter Frédéric Bazille , where the idea for the exhibition was born, the island of Grenouillère , where Monet and Renoir painted together, and finally Le Havre , where Monet created his famous painting Impression, Soleil Levant.

Boring? Exactly the opposite!

If you think this is going to be a boring affair, you should be reassured, or warned. With your glasses on, you walk over rickety wooden walkways, over bridges and through low beams - every visitor bends down involuntarily and we hardly dare to go down the stairs because we can hardly distinguish between reality and the illusion.

We can hardly distinguish between the virtual world and reality.

The “immersive experience” costing 20 million is extremely elaborate. The 3D feeling is perfect and anyone who gets dizzy easily may even reach their limits during the virtual gallery visit.

The 45-minute run-through of the evening is an entertaining introduction to the real exhibition. You should definitely allow yourself a few minutes of peace before looking at the "real" paintings in the exhibition "Paris 1874 Inventing impressionism", which is on display in the French capital until July 14th.

Admire original works in the exhibition "Paris 1874 Inventing impressionism"

Impressionism Exhibition Paris Musée d'Orsay France 150 Auguste Renoir

Here, visitors can compare 130 works from the 1874 Impressionist exhibition with paintings and sculptures shown at the official Salon that same year. For the first time, 31 artists, including Monet, Renoir, Degas, Morisot, Pissarro, Cézanne and Sisley, exhibited their works outside the official Salon: light-flooded, colorful paintings that convey fleeting impressions with lively strokes.

150 years ago, Paris was marked by two conflicts: the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and a violent civil war. In this crisis-ridden environment, artists began to rethink their art and explore new paths. A small "clan of rebels" painted scenes of modern life and landscapes sketched in the open air, in pale tones and with a light touch.

Their way of painting "what they see, [...] as they see it" marks the foundation for an aesthetic revolution: Impressionism is born.
What was so modern about Impressionism?
Musée d'Orsay Paris France inside

"First of all, very ordinary scenes were painted: landscapes, people sitting in a café, bathers," says Géraldine Lefebvre, director of the Musée d'art moderne in the French coastal town of Le Havre.

After the Franco-Prussian War and the beginning of industrialization, it was perhaps this lightness that touched people.

The biggest innovation was the way the pictures were painted: “plein air”, i.e. outdoors and no longer in the studio.

With the easel, the painters braved wind and weather. Often they had to work quickly. Light, quick brushstrokes replaced photorealistic painting. What was initially frowned upon as inferior quality was soon recognized as an impressive visualization of light, clouds, water and reflections.

In my next blog posts I will visit Monet's garden and take a painting course on the Normandy coast.

You can find more travel ideas for France here.


The 150th anniversary will be celebrated with its own festival. Exhibitions and events will take place in many cities and museums. All information at

Getting there

The train was an important means of transport for the Impressionists. The journey from Heidelberg to Paris takes less than four hours.


The super-beautiful "Hotel des Grandes Ecoles" in Paris is located in a garden in the Latin Quarter. All rooms have floral wallpaper and breakfast. Notre-Dame and the Musée d'Orsay are within walking distance. Double rooms from €160.

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