Trouville, Deauville and the Côte Fleurie
Our thanks to Jacques-Sylvain Klein, who very kindly made available to us texts which he has written for the "Guide du Routard des Impressionnistes en Normandie". To read these texts in full, readers are invited to purchase the "Guide du Routard" guidebook (in French), available from French bookshops.
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.
The popularity of these sister resorts soon eclipsed that of Dieppe and Étretat thanks to the climate, which is milder to the south of the Seine than the north, the attraction of the region's vast sandy beaches, and the opening of the Paris-Deauville railway line in 1863.
The presence of wealthy visitors also attracted painters to the region. These artists were often broke and saw the visitors as an opportunity to improve their fortunes. Boudin, who was living an impoverished existence in Honfleur, was the first to make the most of this opportunity. On the advice of Isabey, the artist invented "beach scenes" – small charming paintings of beautiful women in crinolines and handsome men in morning dress, which he dashed off in just a few brushstrokes. He was quickly imitated by his friends, including Courbet, Jongkind, Monet, the American artist Whistler, and Caillebotte. Meanwhile, other artists headed off in search of wilder landscapes: Huet, Troyon and Riesener painted in the Touques valley, while Degas explored the cliffs between Dives and Villers, painting wonderful pastels of the area.
When Mozin discovered Trouville in 1825, the resort was a simple fishing village whose unspoilt atmosphere attracted painters looking for natural landscapes. The village quickly grew into a seaside resort which was known before long as the "Queen of Beaches". The fashion for bathing in the sea became popular and as holiday-makers began to visit the resort, so they were followed by a number of artists.
• Musée de TrouvilleThe museum houses a permanent collection of works by the resort's three main artists, with paintings by Mozin, watercolours by Boudin, and posters by Savignac. This famous poster artist created so many works depicting fashionable Trouville that the town's boardwalk was named after him. Also worthy of note is the painting Bather at Deauville, a magnificent watercolour by Van Dongen. As part of the Normandy Impressionist Festival the Musée Villa Montebello in Trouville-sur-Mer will host the exhibition Fernand Bignon, Photographer and Film Director, in the wake of the Impressionists.
• The beach19th century newspapers described this vast beach with its soft fine sand as the most beautiful beach in France. In Mozin's painting The Beach at High Tide in Windy Weather, the first beach huts can be seen and gradually villas and hotels were built all along the seafront. Created in 1867, the boardwalk, a central feature in Monet's painting The Beach at Trouville, became a favourite place for a stroll for the resort's fashionable visitors.
• The mouth of the Touques river and the portMaritime traffic in the port and the lively atmosphere on the quayside were favourite themes of painters in Trouville. The fish market, typically Norman in style, is one of the busiest places in the resort and was often painted by Boudin, who brought the bustling activity to life in just a few brushstrokes. The washerwomen who washed their clothes on the banks of the Touques also featured regularly in the painter's work.
• The villasThe seafront is lined with magnificent villas, some of which can be admired by taking a stroll along the boardwalk, starting at the extravagant but charming casino. Promenade Savignac comes to an end at Villa Esmeralda, Villa Persane and the Malakoff tower. By climbing up a few steps, you'll come to Les Roches Noires, a former luxury hotel which is now divided into residential apartments.
The development of Deauville (the opening of the casino, the racecourse etc) is recorded faithfully in the paintings of Boudin, who followed his wealthy clients here and settled in the resort. The artist bought a villa facing the sea in Deauville, so that he could paint the water in different colours and in all types of weather.
• Maison Eugène-BoudinThis attractive half-timbered house with a porch was built for Eugène Boudin. Not open to the public.The Journée Eugène Boudin (Eugène Boudin Day) will be held on 8 August 2010 as part of the Normandy Impressionist Festival, as well as to commemorate Deauville's 150th anniversary. The day will feature a host of artistic and gastronomic events, in addition to performances of music and drama.
• The beach Boudin painted Deauville beach – one of the most beautiful in Normandy – from all angles and in all seasons, and in his wake numerous artists came here to produce their own paintings. The multi-coloured parasols add a photogenic touch, and have almost become one of the symbols of the resort. The boardwalk (Les Planches), another striking symbol of the resort, runs along the beach for just over a kilometre. Note the attractive flower-decked patio of the public baths and the superb baths known as the "Bains pompéiens".
• The casino and seafront villas In July 1864, Boudin painted The Opening of Deauville Casino and Concert at Deauville Casino. Villas were gradually built along the seafront, such as The Villa of Madame de Morny, painted the following year by Courbet. Courbet was the resort's idol – all the most attractive women wanted to have their portrait painted by him! • La Touques racecourseBoudin was also present at the opening of the racecourse. His watercolour brings the whole atmosphere of the Deauville races to life in just a few brushstrokes. Years later The Paddock at Deauville would be one of Dufy's favourite themes.
• The Touques valleyThe green meadows on either side of the Touques river attracted a large number of painters. Troyon is known for his majestic life-size paintings of cows, for which he should be considered the best painter of animals in the world.
• Château de Saint-Germain-de-LivetSurrounded by water, this striking combination of a half-timbered Norman-style manor house and a stone and glazed brick building in the Pré d’Auge is a real gem. The château houses mementoes of the Riesener family, as well as of Delacroix, who was related to the family. Works by Riesener, a landscape artist who prefigured the Impressionist movement, are exhibited in the main gallery and in the artist's studio.
Huet, Troyon and Riesener painted together in the Vaches Noires region, between Villers and Houlgate, and found the region so beautiful that they stayed and settled here. In 1869, Degas explored the Côte de Villers as far as Dives and painted around forty pastel works from the cliff tops here. • The villasVillers, a holiday spot as early as the Second Empire period (1850s-1870s), boasts a fine selection of seaside resort-style villas, many of which date from the Impressionist period. • The Vaches NoiresThese remarkable chalk and grey marl rocks surrounded by the sea reach up to 100m in height. This important geological site was a favourite subject for numerous painters.
When Riesener and Huet settled in Houlgate, the village was still "a wonderful earthly paradise where Mother Nature abounds". Riesener painted some fine pastel works here, a large number of which Degas purchased from him. Houlgate soon developed into one of the most charming resorts on the coast, attracting many famous artists, writers and musicians, such as Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Proust, Zola and Guitry.
• Dives-sur-MerIt was from Dives that William the Conqueror left Normandy with his fleet of 700 ships to conquer England. Since that time, Notre-Dame church has been an important centre of pilgrimage, as the fine watercolour Procession in front of Notre-Dame Church by Bonington testifies. Don't miss the Village Guillaume-le-Conquérant (William the Conqueror village) near the centre, with its restaurants, shops, stalls and medieval atmosphere.
In 1853, some years before the development of Deauville, a purpose-built seaside resort was built at Cabourg. The resort was laid out in a fan shape, with all its major avenues running towards the Grand Hôtel and the Casino on the seafront. A seawall-promenade (the longest in Europe at nearly 4km!) was the perfect location for the resort's fashionable visitors to be seen. Prinet's delicate, charming paintings of the resort depict horse riders and elegant women on Cabourg beach, as well as the beautiful Villa Montebello. • The seafront and "old" town Although most of the villas in the resort date from the "Belle-Époque" period, some buildings still survive from the Napoleon III era. Cabourg, however, remains inextricably linked to the writer Marcel Proust. He wrote some of the finest pages of his novel In Search of Lost Time in Cabourg, which he called Balbec.
Contacts and useful links
Most of these websites are available in English. Once on these website, please click on your country flag.Trouville Tourist OfficeTel : 0033 231 14 60 70Site internet : www.trouvillesurmer.org
Deauville Tourist OfficeTel : 0033 231 14 40 00Site internet : www.deauville.org
Villers-sur-Mer Tourist OfficeTel : 0033 231 87 01 18Site internet : www.villers-sur-mer.fr
Houlgate Tourist OfficeTel : 0033 231 24 34 79Site internet : www.ville-houlgate.fr
Cabourg Tourist OfficeTel : 0033 231 06 20 00Site internet : www.cabourg.net
Discover a whole host of information on the Calvados Tourist Board's website. Click here to view the Accommodation and Ideas for Short Breaks sections. Tel : 0033 231 27 90 30www.calvados-tourisme.com
Click here for the Normandy Impressionist Festival programme.
The highlights of the festival include the Journée Eugène Boudin in Deauville (8 August 2010) and the exhibition Fernand Bignon, Photographer and Film Director, in the wake of the Impressionists at the Musée Villa Montebello in Trouville-sur-Mer.