The 2013 edition

The second edition of the Normandy Impressionist Festival will be held throughout Normandy from 27 April to 29 September 2013. Its Chief Commissioner is Jérôme Clément. The Normandy Impressionist Festival 2013 will host a series of outstanding exhibitions and approximately 600 cultural and celebratory events for everyone.

The theme of water

Water has been chosen as the theme for this second edition of the event. For Normandy, a maritime and fluvial region, water is a natural and central element of its existence. And the representation of water (sea, river and rain) was also central to the painting of the Impressionists, notably in the work of Claude Monet, the master who lived at Giverny.

Monet liked to say that “the Seine is my atelier”. This river links Paris to the sea, passing through the two large ports of Rouen and Le Havre, and was thus of major importance to commerce and the development of modernity in northern France. Normandy also has a long coastline, which favoured the establishment of seaside resorts and encouraged growth in tourism. These activities spurred a new style of architecture that was contemporary with the Impressionists.

Normandy inspired some of the great Impressionist painters: Eugène Boudin painted the beaches on the Côte Fleurie, Claude Monet depicted the cliffs on the coast of Albâtre, Camille Corot and Raoul Dufy painted the ports, while Mont Saint-Michel and the small picturesque ports were equally appreciated.

The theme of water also inspired novelists, such as Maupassant, and the great composers (Debussy) of the period. Photographers and film-makers too found water and its reflections an excellent subject for their cameras.

This evocative theme is in harmony with the maritime and fluvial identity of the region of Normandy, as well as with the Armada, the event that will bring the largest sailing boats in the world to the port of Rouen (6–16 June 2013).

The Scientific Committee of the 2013 Normandy Impressionist Festival is chaired by the writer Erik Orsenna. Water and the importance that it has to humanity has lain at the centre of his concerns for a number of years.

Claude Monet, By the Sea at Fécamp, 1881, oil on canvas, Musée d'Art moderne André Malraux - MuMa, Le Havre
© Florian Kleinefenn
Outstanding events in the 2013 edition

The 2013 festival is mounting six large exhibitions that will reflect the diversity of water in Impressionist painting.

  • Rouen, Musée des Beaux-arts: Reflected Colour, Impressionism and the water’s surface
  • Caen, Musée des Beaux-arts: A Summer at the Water’s edge! Leisure and Impressionism
  • Le Havre, Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux: «Pissarro and the Harbours». Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre
  • Fécamp, Musée des pêcheries: The Cliffs of Monet, those other cathedrals
  • Giverny, Musée des Impressionnismes: Paul Signac, the colours of water and Hiramatsu, The Lily Pond. Homage to Monet.  

A performance will be given of The Sea, Claude Debussy's most important work, on the beach at Fécamp by the Opéra de Rouen Haute-Normandie with the orchestra of Basse-Normandie at the start of July.

A film-cum-concert will present the silent film of Jean Epstein, La Belle Nivernaise, accompanied by an assortment of Impressionist music played live by the Opéra de Rouen Haute-Normandie. This black-and-white film was made in 1924 and is set on the Seine. It tells a poetical story of love between two children who live on a river barge. Jean Epstein is considered one of the major figures in Impressionist cinema.

The festival will have a contemporary dimension in two key events: Rouen Impressionnée and Le Laboratoire de l’art et de l’eau de Caen. These will reveal the thoughts of contemporary artists on Normandy and Impressionism.

A leading French contemporary artist, Gérard Garouste, will take part in the festival. He founded the association La Source in the Eure, which helps children from troubled social milieus to rediscover themselves through art. Gérard Garouste, the children of La Source and the artists in residence will present a dramatic project that will travel to even the remotest corners of Normandy. During the festival it will also play host to short theatrical and musical performances. Linked to this venture, an exhibition will be held at the Regional Offices of Haute-Normandie in Rouen on the background to this unusual educational project.

Bearing witness to the literary inspiration of the association of Impressionism and water, the second edition of the Terre de Paroles reading festival will devote some of its programme to the festival. And IMEC, near Caen, will put on a mini-festival linked to Normandie Impressionniste.

The international perspective

During to its position on the sea, Normandy is a place of exchange, with historic links in particular with England. At the start of the nineteenth century, the English aristocracy were the first to visit the French seaside resorts. The region's ports too acted as its windows on the world, and Cherbourg was one of the major destinations for travellers arriving from over the Atlantic.

Within the framework of the festival, the international dimension of Normandy will be illustrated by the splendour of the exhibitions that will bring together Impressionist masterpieces from the world's leading art museums (the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, the National Gallery in London, etc) and private collections. 

Japan receives special consideration as the art of printing there was particularly influential among the Impressionist painters. The exhibition of the work of Hiramatsu at the Musée des Impressionnismes in Giverny revisits the notion of Japanism.


Giverny, bassin de Monet « Fouin-brise »
© Tous droits réservés

And during the festival Japan will in turn receive the colours of French impressionist chamber music, as played by the Opéra de Rouen Haute-Normandie. This repertoire will also be played at the Théâtre des Arts de Rouen during the summer.  

Contemporary creativity will also be shown with an international perspective: the Abbaye de Jumièges will be the setting for work by known photographers (Irving Penn, Cy Twombly, Sebastiao Salgado, and others) and a large biennial of Land Art, featuring the British artist of Sri Lankan origin, Chris Drury. The event Rouen Impressionnée will welcome works by young established artists like Natzu Nishi, and in Caen the Frac de Basse-Normandie will host work by the American artist Spencer Finch.