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The Impressionists’ Footsteps in Varengeville, France

Nestled in the gorgeous Alabaster coast of Normandy is a small village called Varengeville-sur-Mer. So small it could be missed!… But it wasn’t overlooked by some notable impressionism painters!

Varengeville Saint Valery Church painting - impressionist art Monet
L’Église de Varengeville, France – Monet famous paintings

The Impressionists were a tight group of artists trying to show the art world their new, fresh and colorful painting style. Of course they were scorned by the art crtics and rejected by the snobbish Paris Salon. Nevertheless, the impressionist painters continued to paint with their bright colors and capture the gorgeous scenery around them. 

We can just imagine them sharing information of where to go and what to paint. One wonders who told who about gorgeous Varengeville-sur-Mer!!

So who were the artists who gravitated to Varengeville-sur-Mer?

This tiny place drew in big names to say the least. Many impressionists, including Pissarro, Corot, Monet and Renoir filled their canvases with gorgeous paintings of this small town and its surroundings. The post-impressionists and modern painters Miro and Braque also came to this town and immortalized its beauty. They even say that Satie came to Varengeville-sur-Mer to play the piano!!

Claude Monet famous paintings of Varengeville

In February 1882, Claude Monet traveled to Dieppe and Pourville, on the Normandy coast. He remained there for two months, by himself, and painted 36 canvases.

Claude Monet loved Normandy with its beautiful villages and scenery. In particular, he loved the Alabaster Coast, it’s majestic cliffs and beautiful beaches. He painted these Norman seascapes again and again.

Varengeville - impressionist art Monet
Eglise Saint Valery Church – Varengeville, France – Claude Monet

A small hamlet called Varengeville-sur-Mer captivated Monet. He set up his canvas outside and painted its church, the beaches and beautiful white cliffs. He painted these views again and again and at different times to capture the changing lights.

“I have never had a studio, and I do not understand shutting oneself up in a room. To draw, yes; to paint, no.”

Claude Monet Quotes

Today these paintings are world famous and worth millions. In fact one painting called L’Église de Varengeville, soleil couchant sold at a Christie’s auction in 2014 for the obscene amount of £5,682,500.

Auguste Renoir Paintings & Varangeville

Renoir enjoyed getting away from Paris and spending time painting the countryside along the Seine and the Normandy coastline.  However, Renoir’s interest was not in depicting remote places, but rather the locations favored by the rich Parisians while holidaying.

He was drawn to the pretty and posh village – Varengeville-sur-Mer. He also filled canvases capturing the town’s beach,  the lush landscapes, the beautiful white cliffs and the Saint Valery Church perched on the white chalked cliff.

The Cliffs and Church of Varengeville Fr
The Cliffs and Church of Varengeville, France
Painting by Auguste Renoir

Georges Braque and Varangeville

Georges Braque was a Normandy boy at heart. Although born in Paris, his family moved to Le Havre during his school years. He grew up with the beautiful Normandy landscape and Alabaster coastline.

After spending time in Southern France, Braque returns to Normandy and chooses Varengeville-sur-Mer as the place to build his home. He lived there for 6 months of the year for over 35 years. 

Varengeville-sur-Mer – Normandy Tourism

Varengeville is an elegant and authentic village in Normandy. It is a lovely place to base yourself when doing a road trip around this part of France. It is a small village and offers the traveler a more tranquil base, less hectic than the nearby port town, Dieppe.

5 Best Things to do in Varengeville-sur-Mer

Eglise Saint Valery Church  

This little church should not be missed. It is such a gorgeous gem! It is located on the edge of a cliff. This beautiful church has in fact been immortalized on canvases of many important painters including Renoir & Monet.

This church was originally built in the 12th century but enlarged four centuries later.  Inside the chapel you will see the gorgeous stained-glass window designed by the modern art painter Georges Braque. When Braques died in 1963, he was buried here in the churchyard. Go visit him and check out the incredible sea views!!

If you are visiting when the church is open, you can see the beautiful paintings donated by Michel Ciry, a famous local painter of Varengeville.

Eglise Saint Valery Church  - Varengeville, France
Eglise Saint Valery Church – Varengeville, France
Photo by Pierre Lesage (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Le Bois des Moutiers – Combining English Precision with French Elegance

Le Bois des Moutiers house, park and gardens are gorgeous. It doesn’t really matter when you visit, the gardens will offer a feast for all senses at any time of the year. The gardens offer beautiful walks that take at least an hour and a half. The walks are peaceful and beautiful and provide jaw-dropping views of the sea, the chapel and the majestic alabaster cliffs.

If you are an admirer of the Arts & Crafts movement, then visit the house. The detail of the house is a combined design of Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. It is a piece of England tucked away in Varengeville-sur-Mer. Such a gem!  Call in advance and ask when a group is touring, that way you may be able to enter the house. For more information, check out this great article by the BBC.

Le Bois des Moutiers - Varengeville, France
Le Bois des Moutiers – Villa & Gardens / Photo by JR P(CC BY-NC 2.0)

Petit Ailly Secret Beach

This is a local and remote beach that is far less busy than other beaches in Normandy. In fact it is a Varengeville-sur-Mer secret! Shhhhhhhhh!!

If you are driving, take the D75 in the direction of Dieppe and pass the Mairie on your right. Turn left into Rue Grange des Conches and then take the first right. There is no name for this road but it will take you to Rue Hamel Aubin.

Once on Rue Hamel Aubin , turn immediately right onto Rue Lemoine and keep going straight all the way to the beach. There is a small car park.

Varengeville-sur-Mer Beach
Varengeville-sur-Mer Beach / Photo by Pierre Augustin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Not Too Difficult but Very Beautiful Hiking Trails

France offers many long-distance footpaths and hiking trails. Varengeville is connected to the walking path that makes up the 100,000 kms of trails, crossing the country in all directions.

Long-distance footpaths or hiking trails in France are called “Sentiers de grandé randonnée” or abbreviated as GR. The paths are marked on trees, posts or stones by a red and white mark.

GR red and white marking to help you navigate the trail
GR Marking to help you navigate the trail

Around Varengeville, there are some beautiful walks. Check out this link for some beautiful and not so difficult walks… just make sure you have comfortable shoes, water and a camera ready.

The Small Art Museum of Michel Ciry

This art museum is dedicated to the local painter Michel Ciry, It is a small, beautiful and very bright museum. The artist showcases lovely still life paintings, landscapes and portraits. The Michel Ciry Museum isn’t always open so make sure to check the website for details.

Low Tide -  Varengeville-sur-Mer, France - Monet famous paintings
Low Tide – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Claude Monet Artwork

Looking for other wonderful gems in Normandy? Check out some more beautiful places not to be missed!