Rouen is the city of Impressionism, and its cathedral is iconic. Since the time of Turner and Bonington, the city has attracted the greatest artists (Monet, Pissarro, Gauguin, Sisley) and prompted the creation of the Rouen school (Lebourg, Angrand, Delattre and others). The Musée des Beaux-Arts houses one of the three largest Impressionist collections in France. The Seine, with its bridges and quays, the cathedral, the rue du Gros-Horloge (Great Clock street), the medieval district with its antique dealers and art galleries all inspired these artists.
A masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, the Cathedral is characterised by the fineness of its lines, its huge scale, and the decorative richness of its stained glass windows and doors. Claude Monet made it famous by producing 28 paintings of the main façade, each painted at a different time of day.
The guided tour organised by the Tourist Office explores the picturesque back-streets of the old town and includes different spots where Impressionist painters, notably Monet, Pissarro and Gaugin, set up their easels.
A few kilometers from Rouen, the charming villages of La Bouille and Sahurs also inspired Sisley and Lebourg, who came here to paint.
La Bouille still retains the atmosphere of those times, when – on fine days – the inhabitants of Rouen took to the river aboard steam boats, to have lunch in inns, to wander the back-streets, and to dance in traditional cafés or “guingettes”.