Updated on 13 June 2022
Reading time: 5 minutes
Rouen, Caen, Le Havre, Cherbourg, Giverny, Honfleur, Fécamp, Saint Lô and across all of Normandy
April - September 2024 (to be confirmed)
Inspired by the unique light, beauty and mystery of Normandy, the Impressionist painters set up their easels throughout the region: by the Seine estuary, along the coast, in Rouen’s old town and in the village of Giverny. In 2020, Normandy Impressionist Festival ran from 4 July to 15 November and focused on the theme of a new day, a new colour. The festival will return in 2024.
Normandy, birthplace of Impressionism
Normandy was, for many Impressionist painters, their birthplace and home. Its proximity to Paris and growing number of fashionable seaside resorts such as Dieppe, Le Havre, Honfleur, Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer meant that artists came to Normandy by train and stayed, producing an artistic legacy which would be hard to rival anywhere else. For over half a century, these seaside resorts, alongside Rouen, the bucolic Pays de Caux region and later Monet’s home in Giverny, were the inspiration for numerous canvases.
Breaking away from the more formal, classical themes of the early 19th century, the Impressionists were revolutionary in their preference for painting outdoors in natural light, with landscapes, towns and scenes of daily life as their subjects. While Monet’s work adorns galleries and collections all over the world, a remarkable number of Impressionist works can still be admired in Normandy.
A celebration of art in all its forms
The 19th century Industrial Revolution in France brought about many upheavals and, with it, the Impressionist art movement. By focusing on family, hobbies, work and social transformation, the Impressionists’ canvasses captured the day-by-day nature of this pivotal period. With this in mind, this year’s Normandy Impressionist Festival has chosen the theme of a new day, a new colour.
A tribute to an art movement that was ahead of its time, this year’s festival will celebrate art in all its forms through a diverse five‑month programme catering to all ages and tastes, which will feature 20 Impressionist exhibitions, 30 contemporary exhibitions, performing arts, concerts, lightshows, street art, international conferences, and much more.
Four Festival highlights in 2020
- Electric nights
- 3 July-1 November | André Malraux Modern Art Museum, Le Havre
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, cities saw the invention of electricity transform the night; a revolution for any artist interested in capturing light. The phenomenon of artificial light, both gas and electric, varied in intensity and temperature, making nights in the city a visual spectacle just waiting to be captured on canvas. The urban night, increasingly bright thanks to the development of power grids, became an essential subject for artists of the time.
The Electric nights exhibition explores how light and electricity were depicted in art through more than 180 works (paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and films) by nearly 50 artists including Edvard Munch, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Bonnard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
- François Depeaux, the man with 600 paintings
- 11 July-15 November | Rouen Fine Arts Museum, Rouen
A visionary collector of his day, François Depeaux befriended many Impressionist painters and brought together one of the largest Impressionist collections of all time. This coal magnate from Rouen owned as many as 55 Sisley paintings, as well as works by Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro and Monet. Depeaux followed these artists in their daily lives, witnessing some of their greatest masterpieces, such as Monet’s famous Cathedral Series.
This exhibition brings to life Depeaux’s artistic, economic and human adventures, with loans from major museums and private collectors all over the world, enabling visitors to enjoy a vast collection of rare Impressionist paintings.
- Travels to unknown lands: Boudin, Renoir, and Signac in the Cotentin
- 25 September 2020-3 January | Thomas Henry Museum, Cherbourg
Far from the French capital and difficult to access, the Cotentin peninsula has long stood apart from Normandy’s main Impressionist trail. However, a handful of so-called avant-garde artists did prop up their easels in the region, however, including Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir, Eugène Boudin, Paul Signac, Albert Marquet and Henri Matisse.
Travels to unknown lands explores the time that these artists spent in the Cotentin and the paintings they created there. This unprecedented approach to these artists’ travels in uncharted territory paints an unusually detailed picture of a region less associated with the Impressionist movement.
- Ardent cities: Art, work, revolt, 1870–1914
- 11 July-22 November | Caen Fine Arts Museum, Caen
The themes of work and revolt are rarely associated with Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, who were commonly thought to focus more on decorative landscapes at a time when others highlighted social reality.
Ardent cities: Art, work, revolt takes a broader look at 100 works that shed light on events between 1870 and 1914, such as the Industrial Revolution, and brings together contrasting portrayals of modernity. Following in the footsteps of Armand Guillaumin, Impressionists began alluding to social developments in their paintings, such as women in the workplace, and depicting industrial landscapes, such as the Rouen docks that so famously seduced Camille Pissarro.
See the full festival programme on the Normandy Impressionist Festival website.
Normandy Impressionist Festival
108 allée François Mitterrand, 76000 Rouen
Buy a Normandie Impressionniste Pass for entry to all of the exhibitions taking place across Normandy
April to September 2024 (to be confirmed)