Normandy impressionist festival

The cliffs (falaise) at Étretat. Photo: TES

he third edition of the Normandy Impressionist Festival takes place across the two regions of Normandy. It offers exhibitions, multidisciplinary events (music, theatre, dance, etc.) and festivities.

Impressionism – a French painting movement that sprang up in the 1870s – is associated with the dawn of the modern age in art. Free-thinkers and at times deliberately provocative, the Impressionists liked trains, cars and steam-powered machines. They scoured Paris and the countryside in search of new motifs; armed with their easels and tubes of colour, they left their studios to paint the sky, water, light and vagaries of the weather out of doors. Their favourite subject was “Life”.

To the Impressionists, Normandy was a veritable open-air atelier. Claude Monet painted his greatest works on the banks of the Seine, at the foot of the cliffs at Étretat, and in front of Rouen cathedral. For more than thirty years he painted his garden and lily-covered pond at his home in Giverny. Eugène Boudin, William Turner, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir and many other Impressionists appreciated, like Monet, the attractions of the Normandy light. And the region is famous for the clearness of its skies and beauty of its countryside.

During the heyday of industrialisation, Normandy was one of the first to create a rail link with Paris. The modernity of the subjects the Impressionists liked to paint coincided with the modernity of the pictorial technique they used (rapid execution and bright colours). Their bold ideas were contemporary with the development of photography and the early days of colour photographs.

As a result of this artistic emulation, local Impressionist groups were formed in Normandy, notably the School of Rouen. Neo-Impressionist painters, such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, also travelled around the region in the footsteps of their elders.

The festival reflects this cultural heritage and displays its history by staging large exhibitions of the movement’s art. Masterpieces are brought together and the festival also promotes contemporary interpretations of Impressionism by French and foreign artists. (Source and further information (http://www.normandie-impressionniste.eu)