Impressionism returns to Normandy with a homeland festival

Claude Monet brought his easels to Rouen in 1892 to paint a series of its landmark Gothic cathedral, and eleven of those masterpieces are back home in France's Normandy region for a summer-long celebration of Impressionist art.

The Normandie-Impressionniste Festival kicked off at the weekend with yet another view of Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen. Some 1,250 people each holding a fragment of a Monet cathedral reproduction over their heads created a giant live Impressionist painting, measuring 600 square metres (over 6,450 square feet), aiming to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

"We are rediscovering Impressionism, which has been a bit forgotten in France, unlike Japan and the United States," says Laurent Fabius, a prominent Socialist deputy and former prime minister who helped spearhead the Normandy project whose theme will continue in the autumn with a huge Monet retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Normandy had great influence on Impressionism, says Fabius. "All of the major painters were here," he notes, drawn to the region for its "light, the scenery, the medieval monuments; all that will be rediscovered" in more than 100 festival events to run through September.

The Impressionist movement will be recalled not only in special art exhibitions but also with concerts, theatre, films, sound and light shows, a ball, and picnics and promenades in the footsteps of the artists - like Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas - who immortalised the northern France region.

In fact, "Normandy is considered the cradle of Impressionism," says    Jacques-Sylvain Klein, festival general commissioner and author of a book on the subject.

In the late 1800s artists boarded trains in Paris heading west to Normandy, which stretches from Giverny - Monet's home about 75 kilometres ( 47 miles) from the French capital - along the Seine river through the cities of Rouen and Caen to the Channel and Atlantic coastlines that wind from Dieppe and Deauville to Cherbourg and Mont St Michel.

The very name of Impressionism comes from a Monet work painted at the port of Le Havre in 1872 "Impression, soleil levant" (Impression of sunrise), which like all work in this artistic tradition tries to capture an ephemeral moment, says Klein.

In the historic Norman capital, Monet set up his studio in buildings across from the towering cathedral, wanting to capture the changing light on its western facade from morning to sunset, in sunshine and fog, working on several canvases at the same time.

Eleven of his 30 cathedral paintings are on rare display together at the Rouen Fine Arts Museum, including works from private collections and museums in Paris, Boston, Los Angeles and Belgrade.

That Monet looms as a pivotal artist of Impressionism is evidenced in France's new retrospectives but also in London's Christie's auction house. One of Monet's water lily paintings - another of his series' obsessions - goes on the block June 23    and is estimated to fetch up to 40 million pounds (58 million dollars, 48 million euros).

Whether inspired or envious of his fellow artist, Pissarro also showed up again in Rouen in 1896 and undertook his own series of paintings, the focus being the city's bustling bridges and Seine river banks. Eight of his 15 masterpieces can be seen in the special Rouen exhibit, capturing as he told his son Lucien in a letter "an idea of the movement, life and atmosphere" near the turn of the century.

Gauguin, long before he packed up for the exotic life of Tahiti, also was drawn to paint life along the Seine and the streets of Rouen, as seen in the works of the exhibit's third featured artist who later became a master of the post-Impressionist era.

Impressionism was a revolutionary movement in the art of its day and in keeping with that spirit the Normandy festival also highlights the work of contemporary artists in painting, photography and video.

"Impressionism was a breaking with tradition," says Fabius, who heads an intercommunal structure for development of the Rouen metropolitan area (CREA).

In keeping with that tradition, the festival looks at "what could be the Impressionist theme today," adds the 63-year-old who served as premier from 1984 to 1986 under president Francois Mitterrand and made an unsuccessful bid for the Socialist Party's presidential nomination in 2007.

An international video art exhibition set up in the gardens of the Seine-Maritime department building in Rouen delves into several Impressionist themes - revolution, light, intimacy, happiness, urban and rural - using the new medium that offers the artists the visual as well as movement and sound.

"Painting tried to create movement, but with video you can make that movement," says Silvie Defraoui of Switzerland, one of the featured video artists. It is also a medium that can do more than suggest a story, she adds.    "Video is not only to suggest things but to say things... and what you can say is clearer" than painting.

Other new art exhibits include photographs and video on Impressionist themes at the regional contemporary art foundation known as FRAC in Rouen and the Impressionism Museum of Giverny.

"All the disciplines of the arts are represented," says Klein of the Normandy festival. The full programme of events can be found at www.normandieimpressionniste.fr in both French and English.

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital