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Impressions of Normandy


Patti Nickell
Published October 08, 2013

American Cemetery in Normandy, by CDT Calvados

Impressionists’ Paradise
Claude Monet was but one of the group of artists collectively known as impressionists who found Normandy a fertile field for their imagination and talent. The most famous of the places associated with the impressionists is the village of Giverny, Monet’s home for 43 years. The bungalow where he lived and painted is open to the public, but the real draw is the famous gardens.

Artists and nonartists alike pause on the bridge overlooking the Water Garden to revel in the blur of colors that so inspired Monet. Although the gardens are beautiful in every season, they are spectacular in June when the roses are in bloom.

Giverny wasn’t the only place in Normandy to have inspired Monet and fellow impressionists Eugene Boudin and Gustave Courbet. The 17th-century harbor town of Honfleur was so important to the movement that it had its own school, the Ecole de Honfleur.

The picturesque fishing port, with houses covered in slate, and the lovely quay were popular subjects for the impressionists. Even today, artists say that the town’s ever-changing light makes it possible to paint a different scene each day.

Dover in England has its white cliffs, and mirroring them across the Channel in Normandy are the cliffs at Etretat. These limestone formations, eroded by wind and water, share a geologic origin with their English neighbors.

Along La Cote d’Albatre, or Alabaster Coast, a cliff-top path allows walkers to sniff the salty air, listen to screaming seagulls and, in summer, run barefoot through fields of blue flax blossoms. No matter what the season, they can marvel at the three natural arches and the slender limestone column, known as “the needle,” which rises from the sea.

No wonder Monet, Courbet, Boudin and company loved it there. Standing on the cliffs, it is easy to think that all of Normandy is worthy of an impressionist painting.

Normandy Tourist Board

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