Sadly I need to wade through a European winter before I can bathe in the warmth and soft light of the great Impressionist masters in blossom-soaked Normandy. Le Festival Normandie Impressionniste kicks off for the second time around in April 2013, taking water as its central theme. Monet, after all, dubbed the Seine his “studio” and the ponds, pools and pounding seas of the region inspired him and his cohorts no end. Exhibitions worth a special trip include: Reflected Colour – Impressionism on the Water’s Surface, which assembles works by Monet, Pissarro, Caillebotte, Renoir and Sisley, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen; The Cliffs of Monet, Those Other Cathedrals at the Musée des Pêcheries de Fécamp; Summer at the Water’s Edge – Leisure and Impressionism at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen; Pissarro and the Ports at the Musée d’art moderne André Malraux (the one reason to visit Le Havre!); and Impressions Dior, which looks to link haute couture with Impressionism by way of Christian Dior’s frocks and photographs of his garden at the Villa Les Rhumbs in Granville, the designer’s childhood home. Giverny’s Musée des Impressionnismes will channel Monet’s waterlilies via works by the Japanese painter Hiramatsu Reiji, and showcase pointillist Paul in Signac, the Colours of Water. The canny festival organisers have more than 600 events lined up (double their first effort in 2010), including contemporary art installations on the streets of Rouen, regional orchestras playing The Sea by Claude Debussy (by the sea naturally), a seaside themed lightshow on the façade of the Grand Hotel at Cabourg, a presentation of the silent film La Belle Nivernaise, with a specially composed sound-track played by the orchestra of the Opéra de Rouen Haute-Normandie, readings, open-air cafés and dance halls and déjeuners sur l’herbe (clothing recommended for the ladies!) beside the Seine. One million visitors turned up in 2010 so better start planning…now! Le Festival Normandie Impressionniste from April 27 – September 29, 2013, throughout Normandy.
Hiramatsu Reiji, Giverny, Monet’s Pond; Noise of the Wind © Hiramatsu Reiji