Thursday, October 29, 2009

A day in the Musee d'Orsay - tips on sketching

Sacré Cœur and the butte Montmartre from the roof terrace of the Musée d'Orsay
(aka the sketch I wish I'd done while I was there! - see below)

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

On our second day in Paris I visited the Musée d'Orsay and the Sennelier shop at Quai Voltaire (on the Left Bank, opposite the Louvre). Click this link to see a Google map of the places I visited - also shown below.

View Musée d'Orsay in a larger map

You can read blog posts on my two other blogs about:
As you will see from the above posts you can take photographs and video the work in the Musée d'Orsay - within limits (see The Musée d'Orsay). You can see:
Feel free to leave a comment!

Sketching in the Musée d'Orsay

You can also copy works in the museum as follows. The museum makes a distinction between freehand drawing (including sketching) and people who want to set up an easel and copy paintings (by sight-size methods presumably).

An artist copying a painting in the Musée d'Orsay
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Freehand drawing
Freehand pencil sketches, not exceeding 30 x 60 cm, are allowed in the museum. However, for groups, previous authorisation must be requested when the booking is made.

Copying museum works of art, by professional or amateur copyists, or by art school students, requires an individual authorisation. This is issued to one named person, and for a single work. The request must be submitted at least one month before the required date of entry to the museum. The permission is valid for three months, and may not be extended.
The main issues for those wanting to sketch are as follows:
  • you can only to enter the museum with a handbag. So my sister's very large shoulder bag got in but my sketching backpack had to go in the cloakroom. I'd pared it right down so it wasn't in any way bulky as I've had this problem before but they were still adamant that all backpacks had to go in the cloakroom. (If I'd had a handbag inside the backpack I would have been able to take a basic kit in).
  • the museum can be incredibly busy in certain areas - which means a lot of potential 'visual interference' while sketching. Plus you need to get yourself set up somewhere where you aren't in the way of other people as otherwise you'll be jostled on a fairly frequent basis as people tend to look at the pictures rather than where they are going!
  • there aren't a lot of places to sit down. Fine if you can stand - but people like me who have a limit on standing still will have a problem. I also didn't see any sketching stools in use, nor did I see any store of them. You also won't be able to take in your own. (Has anybody ever used a museum sketching stool? If so, where did you get one)
I have to confess! This sketch the top of this post is a total cheat by me! It's the sketch I would have done from the roof terrace of the Musée d'Orsay - if I'd just had my backpack with me! Instead it was done back in London from a photo I took from the terrace.

The terrace is reached a door at the side of the cafe at the top of the building. The door to the terrace seems to be locked after summer is over. I've visited on a fine day at the end of October and was unable to get out on the terrace. However it was a fine warm day at the end of September when I visited. The door was unlocked while I sat eating lunch in the cafe and hordes of people immediately poured out and on to the terrace!

A visit to the Sennelier shop

Art shop review: Magasin Sennelier, Paris provides my perspective on the Sennelier shop I visited after leavingthe museum. I've also got a Flickr set of photos taken in the Sennelier shop.



  1. Sweet sketch--I love it! Your review of the Sennelier shop was great too. I love that place. It always makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop.

  2. Great job on this sketch. I had wanted to go out on the terrace but it was closed when I was there too. I did also get to the Sennelier shop. I wanted to see what they had just in case I needed more paints before heading to Provence.


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