Dieppe was the first gathering place of the Impressionists. Renoir, Courbet, Blanche, Monet, Pissarro and Eva Gonzalès frequently met here.
Before it became celebrated for Auguste Perret’s architecture, Le Havre was a hive of activity among painters. Among the famous names found there were Millet, Boudin, Turner, Jongkind and also Monet in his earlier years.
Etretat and its cliffs also inspired the creative spirit of the Impressionists. They were painted early on by Delacroix, who – as a child – spent his holidays near Fécamp.
Also considered to be one of the cradles of Impressionism, Honfleur was the birthplace of Eugène Boudin, who introduced the young Claude Monet to outdoor painting. Numerous painters became infused with the special ambiance that was present in Honfleur at the time. The Impressionists liked to stay here to capture the fascinating light of the Seine estuary on canvas. They stayed at the Auberge de la Mère Toutain, nowadays the Ferme Saint Siméon.
Giverny was the little village in the Eure where Monet chose to establish his garden studio. It was there that he lived and painted some of his most famous works. The garden, the house with its furnishing and décor, and the whole village, give cause and pause for thought. In the garden, each season creates its own different landscape. Numerous American painters also found inspiration here, giving rise to Giverny’s “American colony”.
Millet, who came from a coastal hamlet on the Cherbourg Peninsula, before moving to Le Havre, excelled in intimate studies of Normandy’s peasants.
Courbet and Corot represented the avant-garde of French painting, and went on to set the standards on which all the Impressionists based their early work. They frequented the charming village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei in the Orne, which is now officially listed amongst the prettiest villages of France.
At an early age, Degas discovered the Haras du Pin (Le Pin National Stud), in the Orne. He produced his first paintings of horse races at the Argentan Racecourse, close by.
Sources : La Normandie, Berceau de l'Impressionnisme, by Jacques-Sylvain Klein.