We love the Tate for its immense Turner collection, Kunsthistorisches Museum for its delicious Bruegel, The National Gallery for its fantastic Copley, Cortona's Museo Diocesano for Fra Angelico, and all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Firenze's gli Uffizi -- but Paris' Musée d'Orsay is one of our favorites for the heavy hitters of the French schools.
Aside from the sumptuous Manet, Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Van Gogh (we love the blue crispness in Paul Cézanne's La femme à la cafetière and Gustave Courbet's fleshy The Origin of the World [NSFW]), we always say hello to the portrait of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's wife, Nadezhda, by F. Xavier Winterhalter (image above -- currently in Russia at the Pushkin Museum for an “Inspiration Dior” special event) and Gustave Courbet's 1850 portrait of Hector Berlioz, especially for the backstory:
It was through mediations of Francis Wey, a great friend of Berlioz, that the musician agreed to sit for a portrait at Courbet's studio in 1850. Courbet must have been delighted at such an opportunity. Berlioz, then aged about forty-five years old, was an important figure on the artistic scene, and was a good friend of Victor Hugo, whom Courbet admired.
However, the meeting was not a success. Berlioz was a secretive man, easily offended. Courbet, on the other hand, prided himself on his musical ability, and took advantage of the composer's presence to demonstrate his talents as a singer. "During the sittings", recounted Georges Kial, "[Courbet] took it into his head to sing his songs, "tuneless laments" […] and to offer them as examples of popular music. At first Berlioz thought it was a joke; then, realising that to Courbet it was nothing of the sort, he took him for an idiot". We do not know if it was his annoyance over this that caused Berlioz to refuse the portrait once it was finished.
So cranky! Another lol goes to Courbet's "Protestant minister" portrait of Richard Wagner where you can almost smell him through the canvas.