Facing the infamous Pont Alexandre III and Napoleon's resting place at Les Invalides, and adjacent to Champs Élysées are located two palaces - le Grand Palais and le Petit Palais. These two buildings were never used to house the French royal family. Despite the ambiguous name, they're simply art museums built with that exact purpose over a century ago.
The Grand Palais is often used as a venue for larger exhibitions, fashion shows and even horse races due to its considerable size. It's particularly recognizable thanks to its dome-like glass ceiling. Opposite its entrance, one can find the Petit Palais which boasts equally sumptuous façade featuring a grand staircase and a gilded gate set under an archivolt.
This architectural masterpiece features a circular open space turned into a charming garden with potted plants and cute tables. I paid a visit to this latter, smaller palace with the aim to see the two currently ongoing exhibitions - Les Hollandais à Paris and L'art du pastel. Understandbly, the queue took over an hour to get in as so many visitors wanted to steal a glance of the spectacular paintings inside.
The first exhibition highlights the extensive exchanges between Dutch and French painters from the reign of Napoleon to the beginning of the twentieth century. From 1850 onwards, thousands of Dutch painters left their country to seek new inspiration. They largely settled in Paris, drawn by the dynamism of artistic life there. Works by Jongkind, Van Gogh, Ary Scheffer, Van Dongen or Mondrian are on display, along with paintings by contemporary French artists Géricault, David, Corot, Millet, Boudin, Cézanne, Monet, Signac, Picasso serving as guidelines of this era.
The second collection represents almost 200 pastel offering a rare glimpse into the main artistic currents of the second half of the 19th-century, from Impressionism to Symbolism. Works by Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Mary Cassatt, and Edgar Degas; along with symbolist artists such as Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, Charles Leandre, Alphonse Osbert, Emile-Rene Menard, and a particularly remarkable collection of works by Odilon Redon; as well as society painters such as James Tissot, Jacques-Emile Blanche, Victor Prouve, and Pierre Carrier-Belleuse. It's the first instance to see as many pastel materpieces gathered at one place.