Museum Spotlight: Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

The Palais des Beaux-Arts of Lille is one of the greatest museum in Europe. In its imposing 19th-century building, it houses extensive collections of European paintings, Antiquities, a mediaeval and Renaissance works of art, 17th- and 18th-century ceramics, 19th-century French sculptures and 18th-century scale models.

Copyright Charles Delcourt

The restoration of the museum was completed in 1997. The museum has not simply been renovated, embellished, refitted. It offers its inhabitants and its visitors, high level exhibitions, events and amenities. The basements were converted into what are now the halls for the mediaeval and Renaissance collections and the scale models. This renovated area also includes a hall for temporary exhibitions, an auditorium, a library, and a space devoted to pedagogical workshops.

The strikingly narrow building, made of glass-panes and located directly behind the museum reflects the back of the main building. It houses the conservation department and administrative offices, the Prints and Drawings Room, the restoration workshops and a large meeting room for private events.

The collections of the Palais des Beaux-Arts are the object of worldwide renown and provide a comprehensive panorama of the great artistic movements of Europe from the 12th to the 20th century. The museum’s mediaeval and Renaissance department houses masterpieces from Donatello, Dirk Bouts… The collection of paintings has no fewer than 650 works, including, from the Flemish school, a rare collection of northern European Mannerists (Barthel Bruyn, Van Hemessen, paintings from the workshops of Brueghel and Bosch), grand altarpieces (Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens), and a collection of Dutch paintings (Emmanuel de Witte, Pieter Codde, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Pieter Lastman) of nearly all the genres found in 17th-century Amsterdam, Antwerp, Delft, Haarlem and Utrecht. From Champaigne to Manet, the collection of pieces punctuating the history of French painting is extensive as well, and a number of works are historical milestones of painting in France (David, Chardin, Delacroix, Courbet, Puvis de Chavannes…). The aesthetic upheaval characteristic of the 19th century can be seen in paintings by Monet, Sisley, Seurat, Puvis de Chavannes and in sculptures by Pajou, David d’Angers, Carpeaux, Camille Claudel, and Rodin. The collection of Italian paintings includes paintings by Veronese, Tintoretto, and Bassano.

The Spanish collection, with masterpieces by Goya, Greco, Ribera, and Valdes Leal, is a faithful representation of the Spanish school’s intense spirituality. Finally, the Prints and Drawings Room which holds 4,000 pieces including 30 drawings by Raphael, makes the museum a reference point recognised worldwide by amateurs and specialists alike.

The Palais des Beaux-Arts is more than just a museum. It also organises regular cultural events bringing together all kinds of disciplines (literature, theatre, music, dance, cinema…). It is part of the places people from Lille enjoy the most for going out, and thanks to a strategic location, that people from France and abroad can easily visit too.

Copyright Palais des Beaux-Arts Photo: J.M. Dautel