Why did the Impressionist artists gravitate to Paris?

During the mid-nineteenth century, Paris was the creative centre of the art world. Artists, writers, poets and musicians from all across the world, flocked to the French capital.

Paris offered even then, the high esteemed academies and art schools, the Louvre and the Salons. And of course it was THE DREAM of all emerging artists to have their paintings accepted by and exhibited in the highly prestigious Paris Salon.

“An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris”

– Friedrich Nietzsche –

Incredible footage of Paris in the late 1890s
Pont Neuf Paris, Renoir painting [Public Domain]

The Impressionist artists in Paris

The Impressionism art movement also emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. However most art historians agree that impressionism itself first started in Normandie. But it also true to say that Paris was the intellectual nerve center of the Impressionism movement.

All the impressionist artists at one time or another, found themselves living in Paris, studying and trying to gain their fame and fortune in the French Capital.

It was here in Paris where the Impressionist artists had their own exhibitions and caused so much controversy in the art world. It was also in Paris, where they worked as a group and encouraged one another to continue despite the total lack of acceptance.

Montmartre and the Impressionists artists

Many of the impressionism artists lived in the bohemian village of Montmartre. This outer district of Paris was a working class and more rural part of Paris. It offered cheaper accomodation than the fancier parts of Paris.

Most of the impressionist artists were scraping to make ends meet, so this part of Paris was most affordable for them.

Montmartre was bursting at the seams with artists. They brought to Montmartre cabarets, night clubs, bars, restaurants and cafes. All these places were filled with artists having loud discussions about the future of art and painting.

Vincent Willem Van Gogh
Rural Montmartre – Van Gogh Painting

It is here that the impressionism artists painted so many beautiful paintings and started the beginnings of Modern Art.

Paris and the Legacy of the Impressionist Artists

Paris is still the best city in the world to enjoy Impressionism art. Below is a list of wonderful museums showcasing fantastic collections of French impressionism art:

  • Musee D’Orsay – it is a huge museum and holds the greatest collection of the late 19th-century paintings anywhere.
  • Musee Marmottan Monet in Montmartre also has a superb collection and also houses the largest Monet collection anywhere
  • Le Petit Palais is the only museum that offers free admission EVERY DAY. It also showcases some fantastic impressionist paintings.
  • Musée Orangerie is a “Monet-Water-Lily-Dream-Museum” One of my personal favorites…. It also houses a wonderful impressionist collection
The magnificent Musee D’Orsay in Paris, (a former train station)

What else apart from Art Museums?

To appreciate the Impressionists, a visit to the Montmartre district is a MUST. It still has that rustic charm, not found anywhere else in Paris. And Montmartre still lures the artists. I recommend that you visit:

  • Musée de Montmartre The building of the museum was once an artists commune. Here lived the young artists who could barely afford rent such as Pierre Auguste Renoir, Raoul Dufy and others. With its rich history of art, this building has been converted into a lovely museum about the history of Montmartre.
  • Go visit the Moulin Rouge, the famous nightclub that was frequented nightly by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. It was one of the best cabarets in Paris in its hey-day and considered the birthplace of the seductive dance called the can-can.
  • Check out The Bateau-Lavoir – This place once offered cheap accommodation for many artists. The building had no running water, but only one tap that served all the tenants. As you walk by, remember that Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Utrillo, Matisse and others resided here.
  • Pop into the Montmartre Cemetery to visit the graves of the impressionists Edgar Degas, Eva Gonzales, Maurice Utrillo and other famous residents! It is a lovely tranquil place to visit.
  • Go visit the beautiful Pere Lachaise cemetery and find the graves of Camille Pissarro, Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Signac, Amedeo Modigliani and many other past celebs!
  • Stop by the beautiful Passy cemetery and find the graves of Eduoard Manet and Berthe Morisot & her husband Eugene Manet
  • Vist the island “Ile de la Grande Jatte” also known as the Impressionism island. This tiny island inspired some of the greatest impressionism artists, such as Monet, Van Gogh, Sisley and Seurat. On this island you can enjoy the 4 km impressionism walking trail. This trail displays reproductions of ten famous impressionism paintings, located in the exact place where the impressionists set up their easels to paint.
Moulin Rouge, Montmartre Paris CC0 Creative Commons

Hop on a train & do a great day trip to:

Enjoy!!!

The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise by Vincent Van Gogh
The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise by Vincent Van Gogh Famous Paintings [Public Domain]