Monet makes a massive impression on Rouen

The painter Claude Monet turned the play of light on the façade of Rouen cathedral into one of the most memorable achievements of impressionist art. The process has now been repeated, with a twist. Rouen cathedral is being turned, by a monumental trick of light, into a Monet painting.

Or, rather, the cathedral is being turned each night into a series of Monet canvases, followed by a series of Pop Art paintings by Roy Lichtenstein.

Before the eyes of startled tourists and art-lovers, the ancient stones of the building dissolve and soften at each night-fall until 18 September into an impressionist painting 200ft wide and almost 300ft high. A digital light show, projected from one of the rooms where Monet worked in 1892, does not merely illuminate the west façade of the cathedral; it transforms the elaborate gothic structure into a living canvas.

The 15-minute show, repeated four times, presents 12 different "paintings", mostly Monets but also two or three representations of the Pop Art versions of Rouen cathedral created by Lichtenstein in 1969. (The American artist achieved his effect by blowing up photographs of Monet paintings.)

If you ever ask what the European Union does for you, here, among other things, is the answer. The Rouen show is part of a hi-tech illumination of four cathedrals in southern England and northern France this summer, partly funded by an EU programme, Interreg IIIA, which promotes cross-border cooperation between neighbouring regions of European countries.

Apart from Rouen, in upper Normandy, 70 miles west of Paris, the other towns with EU-funded cathedral light shows are at Canterbury and Rochester in Kent and Amiens in Picardy. The aim is to promote tourism - to encourage visitors to prolong their stays or to visit towns such as Rochester, Rouen and Amiens that are somewhat off the normal tourist beat.

The Rouen show is far from being a simple projection of Monet paintings on to the west façade of the cathedral (built and extended between the 12th and 16th centuries). Monet was so fascinated by the play of light on the building that he painted it 27 times in 1892-93, from three different viewpoints, at different times of day and in different weather conditions. The resulting canvases, originally intended to be shown together, are now scattered around galleries and private collections all over the world.

The creators of the Rouen light show - Hélène Richard and Jean-Michel Quesne of the Paris-based company Skertz - tried to follow Monet's footsteps. They spent almost a year photographing and filming the passage of light and shadow over the front of the cathedral. They then condensed and digitised their film to "paint" the natural colours back on to the façade and create a series of Monet pastiches.

The effect, accompanied by eerie music, is stunning. The old stones seem to vanish and give way to a three-dimensional Monet, or Lichtenstein, canvas. The creators say that their intention is to "encourage the public to ponder their own perceptions" by "literally entering into the process of painting".

The light show is also a timely celebration of Rouen cathedral, which can now be seen in all its glory for the first time in 60 years. Restoration work, to repair the ravages of the centuries as well as the Allied bombardments in 1944, were finally completed in June last year. The scaffolding that obscured parts of the west façade for many years has been removed, revealing 70 statues, which are either restored originals or painstaking re-creations of figures damaged beyond repair.

The Rouen show occurs four times at 15-minute intervals from 10pm (9.30pm in September) and finishes on 18 September.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower