Normandy in close up
Eure is the gateway to Normandy from Île de France. Giverny, a small village close to Vernon, is one of the most famous places in the Impressionist world. Claude Monet (1840–1926) came to live there in 1883. The most famous French painter of his era, Monet attracted many artists to the area. Standing opposite the Claude Monet Foundation in the village, the Musée des Impressionnismes holds several exhibitions each year.
Seine-Maritime has many impressionist sites. One of the most important is Étretat, which is famous for its spectacular cliffs. In the nineteenth century they were painted by Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet.
Dieppe, a famous seaside town in the nineteenth century, also welcomed many artists on painting visits, including Whistler, Monet and Renoir. Close by, Varengeville-sur-Mer had the privilege of seeing Eugène Isabey install himself there, followed later by the Cubist painter Georges Braque.
Le Havre, which today has the largest collection of French Impressionist paintings after the Musée d'Orsay, was the hometown of several important Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters, for example, Claude Monet spent his childhood there, while Raoul Dufy was born in the town. The fascinating transformation of the port from manual to industrial operation during the nineteenth century will be the subject of the exhibition held at the MuMa (Musée d'Art moderne André Malraux) devoted to the work of Camille Pissarro. Saint-Adresse, a residential suburb of Le Havre, was also frequented by the Impressionist artists.
Rouen, the capital city of this department, welcomed many Impressionist artists. The exhibition A City for Impressionism organised by the Musée des Beaux-arts in Rouen during the first edition of the festival in 2010 revealed the importance of the city in the artistic careers of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Paul Gauguin. Certain great British painters, William Turner in particular, also painted Rouen. And it was in Rouen that Monet produced his famous series of Cathedrals, which turned a historic building into a monument constructed of light. Another highly important facet of Impressionism in Rouen was the development of a high-quality school of painting, personified primarily by Albert Lebourg, Joseph Delattre and Robert Pinchon.
The Seine Valley, with its majestic loops as it winds its way to the Seine Estuary, was also popular with painters, for instance at Les Andelys and Caudebec-en-Caux, and also with the amateur photographers of the nineteenth century who went out in search of scenes to capture (heralding the notion of the photo-reportage). Picturesque motifs like Château-Gaillard, a fortress built by Richard the Lionheart, attracted artists active in this region.
With its light-filled seaside towns, Calvados had everything to attract the Impressionists. Trouville, one of the most beautiful nineteenth-century resorts, was visited by Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. But it was above all Honfleur that established itself as a leading Norman Impressionist town (Turner, Boudin, Monet and others). The Auberge Saint-Siméon close by was a favourite place for artists to gather.
A little more distant, Barfleur and Port-en-Bessin on the Nacre coast equally inspired painters. The great Neo-Impressionist artist Georges Seurat painted his most beautiful seascapes there.
The Haras du Pin, the pride of the department of Orne, was where Edgar Degas, the famous Parisian Impressionist painter, discovered horses, and he painted his first horse races at Argentan race course. The countryside of this beautiful area also inspired the painters and film-makers of Normandy at the end of the nineteenth century.
Some artists, such as Henri-Joseph Harpignies and Camille Corot, liked the picturesque scenery of Saint-Céneri, where they stayed at the inn run by the Moisy sisters, which subsequently became famous in the region.
The Manche was the birthplace of painter Jean-François Millet, whose country scenes are famous. Closer to Impressionism, Édouard Manet, one of the fathers of modern painting, liked to spend his holidays in Cherbourg, an important commercial port during the nineteenth century. The famous Mont Saint-Michel fascinated certain painters, among whom was Paul Signac. Another unforgettable artist from the Manche was Christian Dior, born in Granville, for whom the water, light and gardens were a continual source of inspiration, as they were for all the Impressionist masters.