Birthplace of Impressionnism
Le Havre or the roots of Modern Art
Even though Boudin (Monet's mentor) was born in Honfleur, he nonetheless began painting and developed his talent in Le Havre. A few years later, Monet started the founding movement of Modern Art with his painting "Impression, Sunrise"; because this painting is kept in the Marmottan Museum of Paris, it is often forgotten that it was painted in Le Havre, not far from the semaphore. The outstanding light at the mouth of the estuary is crucial, as Raoul Dufy later claimed. Le Havre, its port, its beach, its regattas have inspired all the major painters of this movement (Pissarro, Sisley, Boudin, Monet, Jongkind, etc.).
Monet and the impressionist painters have given art a new lease of life by challenging centuries of codified academic painting. This era of art is still nowadays the public's favourite and the most fascinating.
Though impressionist painters kept a strong link with the real world's painting, they managed to free themselves completely from the fetters of the past by picking the themes of their paintings in every day life and by using an innovating way to portray those chosen themes. What mattered most to them were the vision and the pictorial research of the artist: each subject was worth just as much interest as the next.
Impressionism managed to give a modern image of the world, picking themes that were never broached before; freed from ancestral pictorial cannons, impressionists developed a new perception in order to fulfil their desire to favour the "impression" of the instant over the construction of the mind: painting nature and the motif, getting out of the studios and meeting up with reality. To hell with the historic or mythological "great machines" of academic painters under the yoke of the power in place; impressionist painters wanted to express the simple beauty of nature and/or the lives of their contemporaries.
All of these artists were on a quest to find sites that had been spared by the industrial revolution (Barbizon, Normandy...); owing to this, their style acquired a certain sociological and geographical dimension.
The disciples of this movement, started by Manet in 1860, engaged in a fight against the dusty, antiquated "studio art" and its strongly anchored conventions so that a new, contemporary, more realistic way to paint would be recognized and accepted; all the while they were rejecting the search for ideal beauty and for the eternal essence of all things, which was so important to classic painters.
An independent and rebellious form of art emerged as an opposition to the official art of the Second Empire. "I paint what I see and not what it pleases other people to see": this quote from Manet sums up the artist's claim to give his personal views and show his own sensitivity. Impressionist painters introduced a large number of pictorial techniques: the use of lighter tones, the division of tones (a tone of orange is obtained by the juxtaposition of two pure colours: red and yellow), the shape and volume are obtained through strokes and colours as opposed to drawing the outline, the use of layers...
If Impressionism is now the epitome of painting (the infatuation that the Senn-Foulds donation has created in the Malraux Museum is a good example of this), it is important to mention that the painters' art was highly misunderstood, rejected and even despised back in their day. But, come hell or high water, all those artists kept following the path they had chosen without even thinking about changing it in order to appeal to the public. And step by step, the public ended up coming to them.
Download our free apps !
Discover Le Havre and Sainte Adresse through the eyes of the biggest painters.
Essential companion of your stay, the Le Havre Impressionnist and Fauve application notifies you when you pass near a view of Le Havre or Sainte Adresse having inspired these big artists. You can listen to the history of the picture while zooming on its reproduction, to discover anecdotes on the painter and on the city ...
Le Havre Impressionnist and Fauve is an official application of the Tourist office of Le Havre.