The Palais des Beaux-Arts of Lille, one of the premier museums in France, houses in its imposing 19th-century building collections of European paintings, a Prints and Drawings Room, a collection of Antiquities, a mediaeval and Renaissance collection, 17th- and 18th-century ceramics, 19th-century French sculptures and 18th-century scale models.
The restoration of the museum was completed in 1997. From a previous 15,000 m2, the museum’s surface area was increased to 22,000 m2, as the basements were converted into what are now the halls for the mediaeval and Renaissance collections. In addition to the scale models room, this newly renovated area also includes a hall for temporary exhibitions, an auditorium, a library, and a space devoted to pedagogical workshops.
Thanks to its glass-pane exterior, the strikingly narrow building 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 the museum restaurant.
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 recently acquired a contemporary scenographic presentation allowing visitors to get a fresh look at masterpieces from these periods (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) representative 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 did not benefit from the decentralisation of artwork in Paris under Napoleon, yet is represented by remarkable paintings by Veronese, Tintoretto, and Bassano.
Though it includes comparatively fewer works, 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 holds 4,000 pieces including 30 drawings by Raphael, making the museum a reference point recognised worldwide by amateurs and specialists alike.
But the Palais des Beaux-Arts is more than just a museum. It also organises a series of cultural events bringing together different artistic periods and disciplines (literature, theatre, music, dance, cinema, video, installations…). These regularly scheduled events encourage visitors of all ages and backgrounds to discover – and rediscover – the museum’s collections and expositions.