The Impressionists also moved outwards into the countryside, following the light. Argenteuil, on the Seine river (back then outside Paris), was one favourite haunt and was painted by Monet, Manet, Alfred Sisley, Gustave Caillebotte and Renoir (the latter shared a house with his friend Monet here).
Following the principles of this new ‘style’, both artists painted outdoors and at speed – capturing the moment and the flowers. Of course, Monet spent the second half of his life at Giverny, where he created magical gardens and painted those amazing waterlily landscapes – but that was still to come.
It is said Impressionism proper was born along the banks of the River Seine, which snakes west in wide bends from Paris to the port of Honfleur on the Normandy coast. It was in this watery landscape, with its changing moods and shifting seasons, that painters began the systematic study of the effects of light – and the name ‘Impressionism’ came after Monet painted his Impression, Soleil Levant (sunrise) in Le Havre in 1874.
Normandy was, for many artists, their true home. Its proximity to Paris together with the burgeoning number of fashionable seaside resorts such as Dieppe, Honfleur, Le Havre, Deauville and Trouville all along the coast meant artists came to the region by train and stayed, producing a legacy which would be hard to rival. For over half a century, the Impressionists found inspiration in the landscapes of the Côte de Grâce (around Honfleur) and the Pays de Caux (a Norman word for the chalk in the bone-white cliffs immortalised by Monet at Etretat).
Artists followed the Seine to Normandy