The great Impressionist artist Claude Monet painted a picture of an impression of the sun rising through the industrial chimneys of Le Havre, in 1872. An art critic unimpressed by this canvas, entitled ‘Impression, Sunrise’, dismissively dubbed Monet’s style of painting ‘Impressionism’; the name stuck, becoming associated with what is surely the best-loved art movement in the world!
To this day, Le Havre offers a captivating mix of industrial and natural grandeur. Reaching the centre of town, though, where estuary and Channel meet, there’s a remarkable feeling of space and light in this port city almost completely rebuilt after the terrible destruction wrought through World War II. Just a handful of historic buildings made of fine stone survived the appalling devastation.
A modern architect with a big vision was put in charge of the post-war reconstruction. Auguste Perret was one of the world’s pioneers in employing concrete. Not only was it cheap, he also reckoned he could achieve many new effects with it, as he proved. The whole design, though altered many times, turned out to be bold and grand. Perret’s modern transformation of Le Havre helped the place become the first modern town in France recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.