Two vibrant artistic exhibitions promise holiday visitors visual feasts in France this summer. The second edition of the Normandy Impressionist Festival promises an appealing series of extraordinary exhibitions that will wrap around nearly 600 cultural events throughout the region.
With a focus on the theme of water, Normandy captures its maritime heritage and a central element of its existence. Impressionists – most notably Claude Monet – represented the waters of the sea, rivers and rain. Monet often said that “the Seine is my atelier” and the grand river we associate with Paris continues to play an important role in linking the City of Light to the sea and to the ports of Rouen and Le Havre. The river’s importance in artistic impressionism is equally so in contributing to commerce and contemporary development in northern France.
With Normandy’s expansive coastline and seaside resorts, Impressionists also enjoyed capturing the holiday and maritime activities of the region. Eugène Boudin painted the beaches on the Côte Fleurie, while Claude Monet brought to life the cliffs on the coast of Albâtre. Camille Corot and Raoul Dufy painted the ports, and Mont Saint-Michel was a favorite subject of Impressionist painters.
An equally enjoyable summer art tour takes place in the South at The Grand Atelier du Midi in Marseille. Over 200 masterpieces will be exhibited at the Palais Longchamps until October 13. If the serene elements of water captured the imagination of Impressionists in the North, the vivid colors around Provence and the Mediterranean flashed across the canvases of southern painters.
As a critical part of Marseille-Provence 2013, European Capital of Culture, the cultural program will be a flagship event with a dominant focus of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. The entire region from northern Spain to the Italian Riviera serve as a virtual artistic laboratory, as one painter after another sought to capture the vitality of one of France’s most colorful and enchanting regions.
Cézanne summed up the delicate relationship between form and color, when he said, “When colour is at its richest, form takes on its fullest expression.” Many 20th century artists were heavily influenced by these two magnificent painters.
The Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence augments Marseille’s exhibition with “From Cézanne to Matisse”. Visitors begin with Renoir and Signac works in the then obscure fishing village of Saint Tropez. Matisse painted at Nice, while Picasso’s studios were in Antibes and Cannes; where they captured both the sunny and somber nature of the southern landscape. Without question the entire region served as a breeding ground of imagination for artists and writers.
Dividing the exhibition between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence provides visitors with the dazzling opportunity to see the very best of artistic expression. Perhaps Van Gogh best summed up the influence of the region: “The whole future of art is to be found in the South of France.”