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Normandy & the French Impressionists

No other place is so intrinsically associated to the Impressionism art movement than the Normandy region of France. Many of the Impressionism painters, including Monet, Pissarro, Manet, Boudin and Morisot, flocked to the Normandy countryside to immortalize the stunning landscapes onto their canvases.

Etretat cliffs - Claude Monet Painting
Etretat Cliffs in the Normandy region/ Claude Monet painting [Public Domain]

Normandy in the 19th century was the happening region of France. In fact, Dieppe was the birthplace of seaside swimming!. The Parisian aristocracy flocked to Normandy in the summer months. The coastal fishing villages, including Deauville, Trouville and Etretat, became seaside resorts to accommodate the masses. Normandy offered a convenient escape from the busy Parisian capital & was easily accessible by train.

The artists also came to this region, drawn to the majestic Alabaster cliffs and beaches, Gothic cathedrals and green, lush countryside.

Today on the walls of museums all over the world, you can view the beautiful Normandy landscapes immortalized by the Impressionists.

Deauville Normandy - Eugene Boudin painting
Deauville Normandy – Eugene Boudin painting [Public Domain]

It is therefore not surprising then, that there are fantastic art museums scattered all across the Normandy region. These museums have world-class Impressionism art collections.

Must See in Normandy: Top Art Museums in Normandy to View Fantastic Impressionism Art

Le Havre: Musee d’art Moderne Andre Malraux – MuMa

Le Havre, the largest port city in Normandy, has an important impressionism past. It is here where Claude Monet grew up. Monet’s early painting of Le Havre was called: Impression, Soleil Levant. It is said that this painting and it’s name, gave rise to the official name of the emerging avant garde art movement “Impressionism”.

Today Le Havre celebrates its impressionism past with the second largest impressionism art museum in the world. MUMA is a fantastic art museum overlooking the Le Havre harbour. The museum is bright, full of natural light and spacious.

Must see in Normandy: Musée d’art moderne André Malraux
Must see in Normandy: Musée d’art moderne André Malraux
photo by damian entwistle on Flickr

MUMA boasts a rich collection of famous impressionism and post-impressionism landscapes dedicated to the harbor, coastal beaches and ocean views of the Normandy region.

MUMA & its Impressive Raoul Dufy Art Collection

The post-impressionism painter, Raoul Dufy was born and grew up in Le Havre. To celebrate their famous “son”, the Le Havre art museum also displays a fantastic art collection of Raoul Dufy paintings. This collection spans his entire artistic career.

Raoul Dufy Painting of Le Havre Port
Raoul Dufy Painting of Le Havre Port

The Impressionists at MUMA

On the first floor is the wonderful collection of the French impressionists and post-impressionists. You will find artworks by all the masters, including Pissarro, SisleyRenoirDegas,  Monet, Matisse, Courbet and many others.

There is also a fabulous permanent collection of paintings by the predecessor of Impressionism & mentor of Claude Monet, Eugene Boudin.

For more information about this museum and it’s current exhibitions, press here.

Giverny – Musee des Impressionnismes

Musée des Impressionnismes in Giverny focuses on the history of the Impressionism art movement of the 19th century.

This wonderful museum opened its doors in 2009, replacing the American Art Museum Giverny.

Giverny - Musee des Impressionnismes - Top art museums in Normandy
Must see in Normandy
Giverny – Musee des Impressionnismes / Photo by JR P (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Claude Monet bought a house and large property in Giverny in 1883. A wave of painters, and in particular Americans, came to Giverny to learn and practice impressionism from the master himself. Giverny became a dynamic artistic community. The museum focuses on the Giverny school (community) of artists from this period.

The room called Autour de Monet” (All about Monet) focuses on how Monet influenced his contemporaries and the generations of artists that followed.

Each year, Musée des Impressionnismes, showcases temporary exhibitions on different themes related to impressionism. For more details about this museum , press here.

Honfleur – Eugene Boudin Museum

If you are a fan of Impressionism, then the Eugene Boudin museum is a MUST! This museum is dedicated to the painter Eugene Boudin.

Boudin, born in Honfleur, was the teacher of Claude Monet in his early years. Eugue Boudin taught Monet to appreciate the colors and light of nature. Boudin’s philosphy was to paint nature by setting up an easel outside. This technique, called en plein-air painting, was a totally new concept in the 19th century.

Etretat cliffs painting by Eugene Boudin [Public Domain]
Etretat cliffs painting by Eugene Boudin [Public Domain]

It was from Euguen Boudin, that Monet learned to appreciate the beauty of nature and the effects of the changing light. These lessons would later on become the foundation of the new Impressionism art movement that would emerge years later! I

Quote Claude Monet

One day Boudin said to me, ‘Learn to draw well and appreciate the sea, the light, the blue sky.’ I took his advice.

In the Eugène Boudin Museum, there is a comprehensive collection of pre-Impressionism paintings by Eugene Boudin and other Normandy-born artists. Also on display are landscapes of the Normandy region, sculptures and drawings that Eugène Boudin donated to this museum.

It is a wonderful museum located in the picture-perfect medieval town of Honfleur. For more information, press here.

Eugene Boudin Museum, Honfleur
Musee Eugene Boudin – Honfleur / Photo by Jim Linwood (CC BY 2.0)

Musee des Beaux-Arts de Rouen

The Rouen Fine Arts Museum is wonderful. It also houses a fantastic impressionism art collection. Here you will see around twenty Claude Monet paintings, including Monet’s famous painting of Rouen’s Gothic Cathedral. You will also view here paintings by Sisley, Renoir, Caillebotte, Delacroix, and Degas.

Art Museums in the Normandy Region
Art Museums in the Normandy Region

The entrance to the permanent exhibition in the Rouen museum is free. However, there is a small fee for viewing the temporary exhibitions. For more details about this museum and current exhibitions, press here.

See the articles below for more trips & tips on must see places in Normandy in the footsteps of the impressionists: