Impressionism was born in Normandy through the meeting of the English avant-garde painters including Turner, Bonington and Cotman and their French counterparts Géricault, Delacroix and Isabey and then the development of a French natural school with Corot, Huet, Millet and Rousseau.
In the early 1860s, the cream of contemporary artists could be found in Honfleur at the Ferme Saint-Siméon and these included such names as Monet, Courbet, Daubigny, Boudin, Jongkind and Bazille.
At the same time, Degas was painting his first horse races at the Haras-du-Pin, Manet was revolutionising the painting of seascapes, Courbet and Whistler were painting by the seaside in Trouville and Deauville while Berthe Morisot was setting up her easel on the Cotentin coast.
In 1872, Claude Monet painted « Impression: sunrise » in the port city of Le Havre. It was the journalist, Louis Leroy, who named the exhibition in which this painting featured « the Impressionist Exhibition » in his article in Le Charivari of 25 April, and so this famous artistic movement was christened.
Many of Monet’s friends followed his lead and Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Gauguin, Sisley and Caillebotte, to name but a few, came to paint along the Normandy coastline and along the banks of the River Seine. Overseas artists set up colonies in the region. Schools were formed from which young, challenging talent emerged with the likes of Seurat, Signac, Angrand, Dufy, Braque and Duchamp.
And it is once more Monet, who painted over half of his works in Normandy, who brought Impressionism to its moment of crowning glory with his celebrated series of the Cliffs at Etretat, the cathedrals in Rouen and the Water Lilies in Giverny.
And so for over a century, Impressionism found its natural home in Normandy.
Sources : Jacques-Sylvain Klein. – Author of Lumières normandes, les hauts-lieux de l’Impressionnisme