North­ern light

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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

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