The Grand Louvre

When the remains of the Tuileries were destroyed in 1883, the Louvre shifted from the original uses of the building as a royal and political center of Paris to a full time home for the arts and culture from around the world to become what we know of today as the Louvre Museum (Martinez).

From the late 1880s to nearly forty years into the 1900s, the Louvre expanded and added wings and galleries to the museum, including the opening of the first Islamic gallery in 1922 (Martinez). However, when the start of a second World War seemed imminent in 1939, the Louvre made immediate plans to close and evacuate as many of the pieces of artwork that were being stored in public galleries across the museum as possible (“How the French”). The famous Mona Lisa painting left Paris days before war broke out in the beginning of September 1939, and when war had been declared, the majority of the major works of art were moved out on a journey away from Paris to the countryside and were constantly moved around for reasons of security (Martinez).

German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt at the Louvre

The Germans forced the reopening of the museum in 1940 after Paris was invaded to restore a sense of culture in the city though the reopening did not attract many visitors to the Louvre. Despite the Nazi’s attempts to confiscate private gallery works during their time in the city, most of the major works of art in the museum were recovered and brought back to the Louvre after the war ended in 1945 (“How the French”).

New wings and galleries were added to the museum between 1945 and 1981 for public collections. The last governmental office, the French Finance Ministry, moved out of the museum in 1961 and was replaced by the Department of Sculptures, artwork of the Grande Galerie, along with restoration spaces and the area itself was completed in 1986 when an exhibition of European Gothic art was added (Martinez).

The introduction of the Grand Louvre project in 1981 was by far the biggest change to the Louvre Museum that transformed its façade and internal structure to one of the most iconic sights in Paris. The plan was introduced in September of 1981 by French President François Mitterrand to completely redesign the Louvre to solely function as a museum. During this time, the museum also expanded into the Musée d’Orsay in December 1986. The expansion encompassed a renovated train station across the Seine dealing with works by artists that were born between 1820 and 1870 along with artwork from the Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne (Martinez).

Three glass and steel pyramids in front of the Louvre Museum

The most recognizable of the additions from the Grand Louvre project are the glass and steel structured pyramids, built by Chinese architect I. M. Pei in 1989, that now serve as the main entrance to the museum. Underneath the glass and steel pyramids, guests gained access to the usage of public areas and to other exhibition wings. Not all Parisians were happy at first with the additions to the Louvre but they grew to love and enjoy them as the years went by (Goldberger). The Grand Louvre project also expanded the internal structure of the museum as well, adding networks of underground offices and more public spaces such as shops, parking areas, auditoriums, and a cafeteria (“Louvre Museum”).

Inverse glass and steel pyramid inside the Louvre Museum

Expansions to the museum still continue on today, as since the completion of the glass pyramids in the Napoleon Courtyard, the Louvre has added new galleries and exhibits focusing on a multitude of other countries and cultures in the past 20 years (Martinez). These expansions have attracted tourists far and wide to the museum so they can catch a glimpse of the past history of their culture.


Goldberger, Paul. “Pei Pyramid and New Louvre Open Today.” New York Times 29 Mar. 1989: n. pag. Web. <>.

“How the French Hid the Louvre’s Masterpieces During WWII.” TwistedSifter. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <>

“Louvre Museum (museum, Paris, France).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.<>.

Martinez, Jean-Luc. “History of the Louvre: From Chateau to Museum.” Louvre Museum Official Website. Musée du Louvre, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <>.


“How the French Hid the Louvre’s Masterpieces During WWII.” TwistedSifter. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <>

“Louvre Pyramid.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <>.

“Filipe Ramos.” Flickr. Yahoo!, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <>.

– Mary Clarke

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