The British-French Normandy Connection
Paul Signac (1863-1935), Port-en-Bessin. Photo: Collection particulière © Collection particulière
The exhibition shows paintings that retrace the history of Impressionism. The 19th century saw the emergence of a new pictorial genre: ‘plein-air’ or outdoor landscape painting, made possible by new inventions, for example the industrial production of paint. This pictorial revolution, born in England, would spread to the continent in the 1820s and over the course of a century, Normandy would become the preferred destination of many avant-garde painters. The region’s landscapes, architectural heritage, beaches, cities, see and the beau monde life pleased and inspired artists. Furthermore, the growing fashion for sea-bathing attracted many wealthy individuals and families. Its popularity was also increased due to its location—halfway between London and Paris, the two art capitals of the period, where British met the French beau monde (afterwards further couth, Côte- d’Azur and the Swiss Alpes).
Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, British landscape artists such as Turner, Bonington, and Cotman travelled to Normandy, while the French (Géricault, Delacroix, Isabey) made their way to London. From these exchanges, a French landscape school was born, with Corot and Huet at the helm. In their wake, another generation of painters would in turn explore the region (Delacroix, Riesener, Daubigny, Millet, Jongkind, Isabey, Troyon), inventing a new aesthetic. This artistic revolution truly began to take form at the beginning of the 1860s, in Honfleur. Degas painted his first horse races at Haras-du-Pin and Berthe Morisot took up landscape painting, while at Cherbourg, Manet would revolutionize seascapes. For several decades, Normandy would be the preferred outdoor or ‘plein-air’ studio of the Impressionists. The aim of this exhibition is to evoke the decisive role played by Normandy in the emergence of the Impressionist movement, through exchanges between French and British landscape painters, the development of a school of nature and the encounters between artists in Honfleur.