Paul Signac & His Normandy Muse “Barfleur Harbour”

Historically, Barfleur harbour was one of the most important ports in the Middle Ages. It was also the first port of Normandy.

Later on however, this picturesque harbour and town attracted many painters, writers and artists. Paul Signac, the famous post impressionist and pointillist artist was one of them. The writer Victor Hugo was another.

Barfleur Harbour - Paul Signac Painting
Barfleur Harbour – Paul Signac Painting – Pointillism Art

Paul Signac’s Love Affair

Paul signac first visited Barfleur, Normandy in the autumn of 1930. In a letter to his friend and art collector Gaston Lévy, Signac writes:

‘The port has enough hustle and bustle about it, and is lined with houses of a handsome and pure architecture. The countryside around is magnificent and very wooded, and the terrain is rolling. It’s one of the high spots of France: the sea is beautiful and the gardens are full of flowers’

Signac fell in love! He returned to Barfleur in the summer of 1931. Signac bought a small house facing St. Nicholas church and most importantly, with a beautiful view of the harbour. He resided in Barfleur until 1935 .

Everything about Barfleur delighted Paul Signac. The artist enjoyed walking along the waterfront. He often crossed over to the other side of the boat basin so he could view the Pointe de Barfleur.

In the foreground, Signac saw the sea with small fishing boats. Beyond, he could view the old granite homes arranged side by side and the church of St. Nicholas. Signac painted and sketched this scene again and again.

Paul Signac painting of Barfleur
Barfleur harbour, Paul Signac painting

Today Barfleur continues to attract visitors with it’s old-time charm. Barfleur has been officially awarded as one of the “most beautiful villages of France'”

Things to do in Barfleur, Normandy

Barfleur town and harbour
Barfleur Normandy – The view that Paul Signac loved to paint and sketch
Picture by Normandie Tourisme (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Stroll around Barfleur Harbour

When visiting, the best place to start is at Barfleur’s picturesque harbour and fishing port.

Around Barfleur’s harbour are the charming granite homes that are 200 to 300 years old! These homes were built during the times when Barfleur was a prosperous fishing village.

The 17th century St. Nicholas church and its graveyard are located at the end of the harbour. The church is simple and not very ornate. However, when you walk into the church’s cemetery, you can imagine the sadness of all the wives and children who lost their husbands and fathers out at sea.

Next to the church, you can still see Paul Signac’s home, the Maison de Signac, on rue Saint-Nicolas.

 17th century St. Nicholas church, Barfleur Normandy
17th century St. Nicholas church, Barfleur Normandy / Photo by Guillaume Mignot
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Pop Into the Historical Village

Within the village, pop into the medieval courtyard of Saint-Catherine and the lovely Jardin des Augustins. The homes in the Saint-Catherine courtyard are the oldest in Barfleur, built in the 15th century!

Feeling Energetic?? Walk to the Lighthouse “Phare de Gatteville”

About 3.5 kilometeres from the village you can reach Cape Barfleur and it’s 233 feet high lighthouse. It is one of the highest lighthouses in all of France. To get there, walk along the coastal path. The scenery along the ways is beautiful.

Once you reach the lighthouse, buy a ticket for only €3 and climb up to the top. A word of warning though, it is a 360 step climb up to the top!! It is exhausting but the views are fantastic!

For more information about pretty Barfleur, press here.

Barfleur Lighthouse -  Phare de Gatteville
Barfleur Lighthouse – Phare de Gatteville / Photo by duvalmickael50 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Paul Signac Painting of Barfleur Lighthouse
Paul Signac Painting of Le Phare de Gatteville (Public Domain)

Barfleur is perfect if you are looking for a quiet town as a base for a Normandy road trip. Press here for Barfleur accomodation options.

For more articles about what to do and see in Normandy, see below.