France is well known for its artistic heritage, whether it is the Ice Age cave paintings of south west France or the vast collections of much more recent traditions in some of the finest art galleries and museums of Paris. Of these more recent Western art traditions, it is said that the French Impressionists, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir to name just a few, are the most popular worldwide.
Anyone visiting Normandy this summer is in for a treat, in fact if Impressionist art is your passion and you are not visiting Normandy then I urge you to reconsider.
The various administrations and museums of Normandy have been organising what promises to be one of the most spectacular festivals ever staged to celebrate the lives and works of Impressionists artists in Normandy. The festival, Normandie Impressionniste, offers a programme of over 150 events from April through to November, throughout Normandy.
Most people have heard of Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny. And each year many thousands of people from all over the world visit this typical rural Normandy village.
As beautiful as Monet’s garden and the village are. there really is so much more to Impressionism in Normandy. There are the cities of Rouen and Dieppe; the coastal white, chalky cliffs and seaside villages; the Seine river as well as the vast open agricultural countryside, with fields of poppies and late summer haystacks. And remember, it is the city of Le Havre that is arguably the birthplace of Impressionism – well, Monet’s painting of that city’s port at sunrise. Although a number of exciting exhibitions in museums and art galleries have been planned for this summer, there is so much more to this programme of events than exhibitions in art galleries, for people of all ages.
The zoological park at Cleres, a favourite for children, will be recreating a ‘guingette’ – traditional outdoor musical café. There are numerous picnics and outdoor concerts planned, and even an open-air cinema at the Abbaye de Jumièges. And the spectacular sound and light show in the streets of Rouen during the wonderful summer evenings, taking in the Cathedral Monet loved to paint and the Museum of Fine Arts.
The exhibitions planned are too numerous to mention, but one deserves particular mention, if only because it will feature several paintings that have never been publicly exhibited in France. The Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen will host ‘Une ville pour l’Impressionnisme: Monet, Pissarro et Gauguin à Rouen’, an exhibition of over 100 paintings. Other major shows will be on in Dieppe, Le Havre, Honfleur, Giverny and Caen. I am thankful I live in Normandy, and plan to get to as much as I can!
Photo Credit: Thomas Dowson. Written by Thomas Dowson, an archaeologist and freelance writer living in Normandy, and author of the Monet, Giverny & Normandy travelblog.