Museum of Fine Arts, RouenMuseum of Fine Arts, Rouen
©Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen

Capital of Impressionism

Rouen is indeed the capital of Impressionism! It is here that Monet, Pissarro or Sisley and, following them, an entire school of painters with nuanced palettes invented the most famous pictorial movement in the world.

Drawing inspiration from everyday life...

The color, the subjects: new rules in the world of the Art

From the mythical Rouen cathedral to the countryside of the Seine loops, the sites painted by the Impressionists are numerous. One can still feel the changing light, breathtaking colors and inspiring French art of living.

An open-air painting

Stroll through the ruelles rouennaises and you will feel the sensations experienced by the Impressionists in the late 19th century. Fascinated by the majesty of the monuments and the changing mood of the city with its singular variations in light, they captured the soul of the Norman capital in their paintings. Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Gauguin, … they took turns capturing the iconic cathedral, the facetious Gros-Horloge, the energy of the port and its bridges and the colors of the Martainville district, when they were not leaving on the towpaths in the buckles of the Seine with its bucolic atmosphere. An impressionist itinerary allows you to discover the paintings of the masters in the city.

"What is Impressionism?"

It is a movement in painting in the 19th century where artists prefer to represent their impressions rather than reality. The impressionist painter captures the movement that vibrates before his eyes and captures an instantaneous view of it, breaking it down into brushstrokes. Furthermore, he no longer paints exclusively in a studio but in the open air and is particularly mobile. This is a true artistic revolution!

The school of Rouen

The Normandy capital became a major artistic center, after the passage of the Impressionists. Following them, Rouenese painters would usher in the post-Impressionist trend and continue to make the city and the banks of the Seine famous. Their names? Léon-Jules Lemaître, Charles Angrand, Charles Frechon and Joseph Delattre. They are called “the four musketeers”. The collection of the Musée des Beaux-arts de Rouen presents beautiful paintings by these painters who continued to innovate and weave the Rouen artistic fiber. Let yourself be taken in by their looks.

Lands of impressions...

Push open the door of the Musée des Beaux-arts de Rouen! The scope and quality of the collections are prodigious. Rouen has the second largest collection in France. One can admire the painting General view of Rouen or The cathedral of Rouen, the portal and the tower of Albane, gray weather by Claude Monet or The Boieldieu Bridge in Rouen, setting sun, foggy weather by Pissarro but also works by Sisley, Caillebotte and Renoir. The scenography is particularly pleasant and leaves enough distance and space to appreciate the masterpieces of these plein air painters. Admission to the permanent collections is free, so take advantage of it!

Impressionist Escapade

on the banks of the Seine

Like the plein air painters, set out in the boucles of the Seine, for a bucolic jaunt at the gates of Rouen. Colorful orchards, reflections of the water, the coming and going of barges in the shadow of the chalk cliffs: the landscapes are rural and lively. Stroll along the towpath at Sahurs. Sisley painted it in 1894, (Le sentier au bord de l’eau à Sahurs, le soir) and take the ferry to La Bouille. A renowned vacation spot for the Rouennais, this charming village has seduced many impressionist painters such as Alfred Lebourg, whose favorite subjects are waterfront sites. La Bouille is still home to many artists’ galleries today, so enjoy! La Seine à Vélo allows you to discover these landscapes on two wheels and cruises on the river, aboard the Lutèce or the Escapade, let you experience the banks along the water.

A colorful festival

Cradle of Impressionism, Normandy has already hosted four editions of the festival “Normandie Impressionniste”. Rouen and the Seine Valley, strong of their common past with impressionist masters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro or Alfred Sisley but also of a very influential current in the art world: the School of Rouen. See you now in 2024 for the 5th edition, which will be the occasion to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Impressionist movement!

Monet and his cathedrals

He made The Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral his muse for nearly two years… It’s hard to walk past the monument today without thinking of the most famous impressionist painter who transformed it into an artistic icon. Relive Claude Monet’s passage through the Norman capital!