Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon

The Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux Arts) in Lyon is located in a former Benedictine abbey dating from the 17th century. In the center there is a pleasant sculpture garden with a cloister running around it.

Side entrance on Rue du Président Edouard Herriot

The museum was founded in 1803 with a first consignment of 110 paintings sent by the Louvre in Paris. Now, more than two centuries later, Lyon’s Museum of Fine Arts has “over 8,000 antiquities, 3,000 decorative objects, 40,000 coins and medals, 2,500 paintings, 8,000 works on paper and 1,300 sculptures” which are “preserved, studied and, in large measure, presented to the public.”

The building was entirely renovated between 1990 and 1998.

Newlyweds at the photographer’s (1879)

Since I had just been to the Lumière Museum the day before and learned a few things about the early days of photography, I was pleased to see this painting by Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929) called Une Noce chez le photographe, which literally means “A Wedding at the Photographer’s”, though I assume they actually got married at the church and/or town hall.

The painting is from the year 1879, which was just a few years before the Lumière brothers began mass-producing photographic dry-plates at their factory in Lyon. So photography at that time was still a complicated process that could only be done by a few skillful experts.

According to the audio-guide in the Fine Arts Museum, the painter’s intention was to show that his paintings could be at least as detailed and realistic as any photograph, which was quite true, especially since photos in those days were all in black-and-white and the painting was in color. (This didn’t change until a quarter century later, when the Lumière brothers patented their Autochrome color transparency system in 1903 and started marketing it in 1907.)

Defeat of the Cimbres & the Teutons (1853)

I’m something of a sucker for large-scale paintings, so I was duly impressed by “The Defeat of the Cimbres and the Teutons by Marius”, painted in 1853 by François-Joseph Heim (1787-1865). The Cimbres and the Teutons were Germanic tribes who had invaded Gaul and inflicted huge losses on the Roman armies before finally being defeated by the Roman consul Caius Marius in the years 102 and 101 B.C.

Looking at paintings in the Fine Arts Museum in Lyon


Furniture by Hector Guimard

The Fine Arts Museum also has a section devoted to furniture and applied arts from various periods, including this desk and chair by Hector Guimard (1867-1942), who is best known for designing the ornate metal entrances for the Paris Métro stations in the early twentieth century. The painting of a nude woman above the desk is by Guimard’s wife, the American painter Adeline Oppenheim-Guimard (1872-1962). 

Young woman in white, by Henri Matisse

This painting by Henri Matisse from the year 1946 is called “Young Woman in White, with Red background (Reclining Model, White Dress)” — not exactly a catchy title, but accurate. This painting is on permanent loan from the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris.

Sign in the Fine Arts Museum in Lyon

I liked this sign at the entrance to the Fine Arts Museum, listing twenty things you ARE allowed to do in the museum, intermingled with only eight things (crossed out) that you are NOT allowed to do. So over twice as many things are allowed than not allowed.

You ARE allowed to: look, discuss, observe, swap opinions, discover, laugh, be amazed, detest, breathe, rest, dream, reflect, relish, wonder, take photos (but not with a flash), be indignant, walk around, take your time, be moved, etc.

But these things are crossed out, so you are not allowed to do them: telephone, eat, run, smoke, yell, touch, use a flash, drink.

My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2017.

See more posts on Lyon, France.

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