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Modern art

The origins of the world. The invention of nature in the 19th century

90 min visit

Musee d'Orsay
19 May → 18 Jul 2021
Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 6 pm. Thursday until 9:45 pm. Closed Monday.

« Embark on a journey out of time to discover unknown nature! »

Nature has always inspired artists who look at it, observe it and imitate it. In spite of this ambition, for a long time the myths and religious representations that had already been made before were used as a basis. Thus in the collective imagination, nature is at the service of man, as in the Garden of Eden. It was not until the 19th century that the perception of man's relationship with nature changed radically. Already the great voyages of exploration of the 18th century, with Bougainville, Cook and La Pérouse, led to the discovery of new species, many and varied. The excavation campaigns carried out by the English and the Germans at the beginning of the following century accentuated this phenomenon: discovery of dinosaur skeletons, discovery of the existence of prehistoric man... Nature fascinates and questions! The phenomenon intensified with the arrival of the life and earth sciences: biology, geology, anthropology, palaeontology, ecology... The whole of Europe then wondered about the origin of man and his place. The theories of evolution, notably that of Darwin in 1859, attempted to answer these questions by placing man back in nature, in an ecosystem of which he was an integral part. However, the 19th century also saw the Industrial Revolution, which disrupted and profoundly modified nature and its landscapes. These two major events had an impact on art. The decorative arts are very representative of this: it is an industrial art, with the first mass production of furniture and objects with shapes inspired by botany and the ocean depths. The microscopic and biological world inspires artists who are fascinated by the origins of life, organic forms, marine or embryonic animals. This is a first for the Musée d'Orsay which, in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History, is presenting this surprising exhibition halfway between the arts and sciences.


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