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March 25, 2006

The Dream Palace of Gustave Moreau


The French artist died in 1898, bequeathing his house and thousands of paintings and drawings to the French state.

On a quiet cobblestone street in the Ninth Arrondissement of Paris, it remains suspended in time.

Marcel Proust, a frequent guest of Moreau, remarked that even before Moreau's death the house had already "taken on the appearance of a museum."

Adam Leith Gollner wrote about the Musée Gustave–Moreau (above) in an evocative piece which appeared in the March 19 New York Times Magazine Travel supplement; the article follows.

    Dream House

    When the artist Gustave Moreau died in 1898, he bequeathed his three-story house, containing more than 1,200 paintings and 12,800 drawings, to the French state.

    His only wish was that the collection be kept together forever.

    "Taken as a whole," he stated, "they give an idea of what kind of an artist I was, and in what kind of surroundings I chose to live my dreams."

    More than a century later, Moreau's donation remains one of the most unusual attractions in Paris.

    Tucked away on a lonesome cobblestone street in the Ninth Arrondissement, the museum that houses the collection — Musée Gustave-Moreau — has barely changed. (Marcel Proust, a frequent guest, noted that even before Moreau's death, the house had already "taken on the appearance of a museum.")

    It's still the same otherworldly, dusty place that has inspired awe in artists from Matisse to Dalí to the poet André Breton.

    In addition to the art, the building also shelters a dizzying array of personal effects.

    The rooms are like cabinets of curiosities, teeming with miniature sphinxes, alabaster camels, stuffed tortoises and bell jars filled with birds.

    Moreau's stated motto was, "I only believe what I do not see."

    His paintings are a hallucinatory mix of mythology and eroticism, meant to transport the viewer to what he called "unknown and distant worlds, where all is mystery and holiness."

    Stepping into his town house is to discover this enchanted land. For information, go to www.musee-moreau.fr.

March 25, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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