Paris's Orsay museum marks 150 years of Impressionism with virtual reality

The Orsay Museum in Paris is marking 150 years of Impressionism from Tuesday with an unprecedented reassembling of the masterpieces that launched the movement, and a virtual reality experience that takes visitors back in time.

Using VR technology, visitors to "Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism" can take a plunge into the streets, salons and beauty spots that marked a revolution in art.

Through VR helmets, they can walk alongside the likes of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne on April 15, 1874, when, tired of being rejected by the conservative gatekeepers of the official art Salon, these rebellious young painters put on their own independent show, later seen as the birth of Impressionism.

The Orsay has brought together 160 paintings from that year, including dozens of masterpieces from that show, including the blood-red sun of Monet's "Impression, Sunrise", credited with giving the movement its name, and his "Boulevard des Capucines" where the exhibition took place.

In rapid, spontaneous brushstrokes, the Impressionists captured everyday scenes of modern life, from Degas's ballet dancers to Camille Pissaro's countryside idylls to Auguste Renoir's riverside party in "Bal du Moulin de la Galette".

They came to define the excitement and restlessness of a new, modern age emerging out of a devastating war with Prussia and a short-lived Parisian revolt a few years earlier.

"The Impressionists wanted to paint the world as it is, one in the midst of major change," said Sylvie Patry, co-curator of the exhibition.


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