French writer Jacques-Sylvain Klein has described Normandy as the "cradle of Impressionism". It was in Normandy in 1872 that Claude Monet painted his famous "Impression - Sunrise", a painting which would later give this artistic movement its name. The 12 itineraries listed below follow in the footsteps of the Impressionists in Normandy. These extracts are taken from the "Guide du Routard des Impressionnistes en Normandie", which is published in France in April.
Giverny and the Vexin Normand
In 1883, Monet settled in Giverny with his partner, Alice Hoschedé, and their eight children. He rented a large house with an orchard and vegetable garden, where he was able to dedicate himself to his two passions – painting and gardening. He was to spend the next 43 years, with the exception of a few trips in France and abroad, in this marvellous spot, taking constant inspiration for the bulk of his work from his delightful garden, which was in flower from early spring to late autumn. Dieppe, Eu and Le Tréport
It was the fashion for bathing in the sea, imported from England at the beginning of the 19th century, and the arrival of the English which encouraged the development of Dieppe both in terms of tourism and art.
Etretat, Fécamp and the Côte d’Albâtre
Huddled against its tall white chalk cliffs, the port of Étretat was difficult to reach until the mid 19th century. Its isolation made it popular with landscape painters looking for unspoilt landscapes. Isabey was the first painter to discover this picturesque spot in the 1820s.
Le Havre and the Seine Estuary.
The idea of "modernity" comes naturally to Le Havre, a "new town" built by François I. By the 1820s, Le Havre was attracting Romantic painters such as Turner and Bonington who painted luminous watercolours here. The colours of the sea and sky inspired Géricault in his masterpiece "The Raft of the Medusa".
Le Gros Horloge
Nestling in a meander of the river, the capital of Normandy has always held a fascination for artists. The painter Pissarro was full of admiration for the city, which he declared "as beautiful as Venice".
The Seine from Rouen to Villequier
From Rouen to Villequier, both banks of the Seine are dotted with towns and villages which have strong links with Impressionism. Why not make Rouen your base and head out to explore La Bouille, Sahurs, Jumièges, Caudebec-en-Caux and Saint-Wandrille.
Honfleur and the Côte de Grâce.
The port of Honfleur is probably the town in Normandy which has provided most inspiration for painters and which can most justifiably lay claim to the title "cradle of Impressionism". The town is brimming with picturesque sites just waiting to be painted, such as the Seine estuary, the quaysides and harbour, Sainte-Catherine church, the old streets, Notre-Dame chapel, the lighthouse and the shipyard. Trouville, Deauville and the Côte fleurie.
For a long time Trouville remained a small fishing village, visited by painters such as Corot, Isabey and Morny who were looking for unspoilt landscapes and solitude, as well as writers such as Dumas and Flaubert. The village only became a fashionable resort in the 1840s, shortly before the Duc de Morny created the seaside resort of Deauville – popular with a more upmarket clientele – on the opposite bank of the Touques river. Caen and the Côte de Nacre
This region attracts many painters who are looking for unspoilt landscapes and want to avoid all the frills of the large seaside resorts. Cherbourg, the Cotentin and Saint-Lô
The artist Millet is as important to Lower Normandy as Monet is to Upper Normandy. According to Van Gogh "it is Millet rather than Monet who is the essentially modern painter to have opened new horizons." Millet was born and grew up in the hamlet of Gruchy, overlooking the sea.
The southern coast of the English Channel has long attracted artists in search of light and picturesque scenery. Many came here to paint these breathtaking natural landscapes, which during storms often have a wild, untamed feel.
The Argentan, Alençon and Mortain areas
Eglise St Germain
Although landscape painters often showed a preference for riverbanks and coastal scenery as their subject matter, painters such as Léger, Léandre, Mare, Géricault, Cotman, Corot, Courbet and Degas occasionally ventured into inland Normandy. In the areas of the Orne and Mortainais they discovered little-known sights of surprising beauty.