Normandy is the cradle of Impressionnism. Le Havre was the setting, and the inspiration, for Claude Monet's famous 1872 painting : Impression, soleil levant (Impression, sunrise).
Normandy was, for most artists, their birthplace and home. Its proximity to Paris together with the burgeoning number of fashionable seaside resorts like Dieppe, Honfleur, Le Havre, Deauville or Trouville, along its coast meant that artists came to the region by train and stayed, producing an artistic legacy which would be hard to rival anywhere.
Breaking away from the more formalised and classical themes of the early part of the 19th century, the Impressionist painters preferred to paint outdoors, in natural light, and to concentrate on landscapes, towns and scenes of daily life.
The Honfleur artist Eugène Boudin was a forerunner of Impressionism, and had a profound influence on Claude Monet. 'If I am a painter, I owe it to Eugène Boudin" Monet would say. For over half a century, the Côte de Grâce, the Caux county, Deauville, Trouville, Le Havre and Rouen were the inspiration for numerous canvasses.
Leader of the movement, and father of modern painting, Claude Monet is perhaps one of the best known Impressionists and certainly a major character in Normandy's artistic heritage. His house and gardens at Giverny are one of the region's major tourist sites, much visited for their beauty and their water lilies, as well as for their importance to Monet's artistic inspiration. Normandy was at the heart of his creation, from the paintings of Rouen's cathedral to the famous depictions of the sunrise at Le Havre and the cliffs at Etretat, as well as the beach and port at Fécamp.
The American art museum in Giverny, reflecting American inspiration is also well worth a visit.
Monet met Eugène Boudin and Jongkind in Honfleur, he mixed with artists such as Courbet, Corot, Sisley, Pissarro and Renoir and brought them to Honfleur to paint.
The river Seine also provided much inspiration to these painters whose new technique enabled them to depict the sparkling colours of moving water and the reflection of clouds and sky. Further north, at the tip of the Manche County, the painter Millet produced several works which depicted the local church or scenes of peasants working in the fields.
While Monet's work adorns galleries and collections all over the world, a remarkable quantity of Impressionist works is to be seen in galleries throughout Normandy.
While Eugène Boudin, Raoul Dufy and Marcel Duchamp are Normand by birth, numerous other painters fell under the charm of the region, stayed there and even settle there. Living in close proximity to the inexhaustible source of inspiration provided by the region, landscapes and scenes of daily life were immortalised on canvas not only by Claude Monet, but also by William Turner, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, George Braque, Pablo Picasso and others.
A short film about Impressionism