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Normandy Art Events – The Normandy Impressionism Festival

Every few years, there is a major Normandy art event called “Festival Normandie Impressionniste” (the Normandy Impressionist Festival). This festival is a major art event, attracting over a million visitors from around the world.

The up coming festival is scheduled between the dates April 3 to September 6, 2020. The theme of the festival is Impressionism and Portraits.

Normandy & the Impressionists

One cannot separate the rich history of the 19th century French Impressionism Art Movement and the region of Normandy in France. It was here in Normandy where impressionism was born and developed.

Back in the 1870s, when Impressionism was just evolving, Normandy, attracted the artists. Paris-based artists caught the train out from Gare St-Lazare (itself immortalized by Monet), and headed for Normandy. The region offered them everything they needed, breath-taking scenery and intense light.

Claude Monet - Etretat, Normandy
Claude Monet – Etretat, Normandy
Etretat Normandy
Etretat Beach, Normandy
Photo by Daniela Goulart on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The revolutionary French impressionists practiced a totally new technique called plein-air painting. They set up their easels outdoors to capture the light and paint the landscape surrounding them. These artists included Sisley, Monet, Morisot, Manet, Pissarro, Boudin and Gauguin to name a few.

Claude Monet loved Normandy so much that he made Giverny his home for the last 40 years of his life.

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Claude Monet house Giverny
Claude Monet house in Giverny
In the Footsteps of the Impressionists – walking itineraries all across Normandy
Photo by JR P on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Festival Normandie Impressionniste-Celebrating Normandy Art & the Impressionists

The Normandy Impressionist celebrates the close connection between the region of Normandy and the impressionism art movement. It is one of the largest festivals of its kind in all of France.

Lots of multi-disciplinary events are planned and will be happening all over Normandy, such as:

  • Specially curated Impressionism exhibitions (see below)
  • Contemporary art exhibitions
  • Music concerts
  • Cinema
  • Theater
  • Photography exhibitions
  • Sound & Light shows and more
Normandy Events: Every evening: Sound & Light Show on the Facade of the Rouen Cathedral
Normandy Events: Every evening: Sound & Light Show on the Facade of the Rouen Cathedral

The festival aims to also promote contemporary interpretations of Impressionism by inviting French and foreign artists to produce new works in the Impressionism avant-garde spirit.

Events are organized by towns, associations and private individuals. This five-month-long art festival provides a fantastic opportunity to visit the Normandy region and see its beautiful medieval cities, towns, villages, stunning beaches and countryside.

Honfleur Normandy, France
Honfleur Normandy
Claude Monet Painting of Honfleur
Claude Monet Painting of Honfleur

Normandy Events all over the Region

All holiday destinations like Dieppe, Rouen, Caen, Honfleur, Le Havre and Giverny will host special events. Activities, concerts and exhibitions will be on-going during this period making Normandy one huge artistic carnival!

Normandy Art Events: Museums Hosting Fantastic Impressionism Art Exhibitions

Impressionism masterpieces from France and around the world are being brought to Normandy for showcasing in different art exhibitions throughout the region.

Below is a list of a few (there are more!) of the art museums that will participate in the 2020 festival. These impressionism art exhibitions have been curated especially for this festival.

List of Normandy Art Museums & Impressionism Exhibitions participating in the Festival

Exhibition: François Depeaux. The man with 600 paintings

When: 03 April to 07 September 2020
Where: The Musée des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Museum) in Rouen

The Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen is exhibiting the stunning collection of François Depeaux (1853-1920), the Rouen coal tycoon and art collector .

Depeaux was a compulsive art collector. By the time he died, he had in his possession nearly 600 paintings and drawings. This collection included many impressionism artworks as well. He had around 55 Sisley artworks, 20 Monet paintings and masterpieces by Pissarro, Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir.

Rouen Cathedral painting by Claude Monet Impressionist
Normandy Art: Rouen Cathedral painted by Claude Monet

Depeaux appreciated the artworks of the impressionism painters well before the French art world. He was a serious art patron even during their beginnings when the Paris Salon and art critics were still scorning their art.

In 1909, Depreaux donated many of his paintings to public museums to make sure that the world could enjoy the masterpieces of the impressionists.

To restore François Depeaux’s mammoth collection for this exhibition, many paintings are on loan from public art museums and also private collections in France and around the world.

Exhibition: Impressionism and Electric Nights

When: 04 April to 20 September 2020
Where: Musée d’art moderne André Malraux (MuMa) in Le Havre

This exhibition will focus on one of the most monumental inventions on the 19th century –the incandescent lamp (light bulb) invention by Thomas Edison in 1879.

Once this invention was implemented, major cities around Europe lit up at night. Not only did the major streets light up, but also theaters, cafes, restaurants, homes and all major landmarks. It took longer for the smaller towns, villages and poorer neighborhoods in the cities to have the electrical lights installed.

Eugène JANSSON (1862-1915), Nocturne
Exhibition: Impressionism and Electric Nights
Eugène JANSSON (1862-1915), Nocturne

The newly lit up cities fascinated the artists. They captured the beautiful lights and this major milestone in their cityscapes of the night. In this exhibition, you will view around 150 paintings of the impressionism masters such as Monet, Boldini, Pissarro, Luce, Steinlen, Bonnard, Munch and more. 

Musée d'art moderne André Malraux (MuMa) in Le Havre
MuMa Le Havre – Photo by damian entwistle on Flickr
(CC BY-NC 2.0)
Musée d'art moderne André Malraux (MuMa) in Le Havre
MuMa Art Museum, Le Havre @Lachèvre

Exhibition: Éva Gonzalès

When: 20 June to 27 September 2020
Where: Dieppe Castle Museum

This exhibition will be the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the artworks of Eva Gonzalès (1849-1883).

Gonzales was one of the very few female impressionism artists in the 19th century. She was a very promising artist but died at the early age of 34 years. Even with such a short artistic career, Gonzales left behind a significant collection of paintings, pastels and drawings.  

Normandy art - Eva Gonzales Exhibition at Dieppe Castle
Normandy Art – Eva Gonzales Exhibition at Dieppe Castle

The Eva Gonzales exhibition will focus on the following themes:

  • Her art training under the impressionism master Edouard Manet
  • Her modern marriage to Henri Guérard who supported her in her art career (very unusual for those times); and
  • Her relationship with her sister, Jeanne Gonzalès, model and herself an artist.

Exhibition: From Dawn to Dusk

When: 3 April to 6 September 2020
Where: Louviers museum

The exhibition From Dawn to Dusk will focus on the artworks of the impressionism painters and how they captured the moments of dawn and dusk.

The impressionists were fascinated with the effects of light in nature. In their paintings, they aimed to translate the effects that the light had on landscapes. They studied the light and tried to depict the changing colors and the different shadow effects of that fleeting moment.

This exhibition focuses on how the impressionism painters captured the transient minutes of dawn and dusk onto their canvases.

The exhibition will showcase around 80 artworks of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Signac, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Theodore -Earl Butler, Albert Lebourg and others.

Paul Signac painting:View of Saint-Tropez, sunset in pine wood, 1896
Paul Signac painting:View of Saint-Tropez, sunset in pine wood, 1896

Exhibition: The studio of Nature, 1860-1910, The Terra Collection in Context

Where: The Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny
When: 10 July until 1 November, 2020

This exhibition will exhibit more than fifty paintings, lithographs and water-colors of the American artists who came to Giverny to study and experiment with the techniques of the French impressionists. These Americans adopted the technique of painting outdoors (en-plein air), painting with a brighter palette of colors and using short, thick brushstrokes.

American Artist: John Leslie Breck - Haystacks in Giverny
American Artist: John Leslie Breck – Haystacks in Giverny

Most of them returned to America, taking with them this new revolutionary style. These artists continued to paint American landscapes in the French impressionism style.

This exhibition will present their artworks. It will demonstrate how French impressionism influenced and heralded a new approach to painting in America in the early 20th century.

For more information about all the other activities during the Festival Normandie Impressionniste, check out the official website

Looking for hotel options in Normandy? Check out the options in Booking.com.

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Panel showing one of Camille Pissarro paintings of Dieppe Port, Normandy
Photo by homo_sapiens on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

For more tips about how to following the footsteps of the impressionists in beautiful Normandy, check out the articles below.