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Boudin, Monet’s master, was born in Honfleur but nevertheless learnt his trade and developed his talent in Le Havre.

A few years later, Monet laid the first stone of the founding movement of Modern Art with his painting “Impression soleil levant” (Impression of the rising sun), which is too often forgotten because it is kept in the Musée Marmottan, which was founded in Le Havre not far from the MuMa.

Impression soleil levant par Claude Monet
Impression soleil levant by Claude Monet

Le Havre and Impressionism

The exceptional light at the mouth of the Seine estuary was a determining factor, as Raoul Dufy would write and claim a few years later. Le Havre, its port, its beach, the regattas, inspired all the major players in this movement (Pissarro, Sisley, Boudin, Monet, Jongkind…).

MuMa Musée Malraux
Portrait de Nini Lopez par Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Nini Lopez portrait by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The impressionist movement

Impressionism has managed to give a modern vision of the world, choosing themes that are unattainable in painting, freed from the ancestral pictorial canons to invent a new perception, responding to the desire to favour instantaneous “impression” over the construction of the mind: to paint on nature, on the motif and come out of the workshops to go and meet the real world.

The official art of the Second Empire was opposed by an independent, rebellious art. Manet’s formula: “I paint what I see, not what others like to see”, sums up the artist’s claim to give his personal vision, that of his own sensitivity. 

Camille Pissaro, l'Anse des Pilotes, Le Havre

The impressionists introduced a number of processes: the use of light tones, the division of tones (an orange is represented by the juxtaposition of two pure colours, red and yellow), the production of form and volume by strokes and colours instead of outline drawing, the use of thickness

All these artists were in search of sites preserved from the industrial revolution (Barbizon, Normandy…). In this, they gave their style a certain sociological and geographical dimension.

Camille Pissaro, l'anse des pilotes et le brise lames
Camille Pissaro, l'Anse des Pilotes et le brise-lames est
La Seine à Vétheuil par Claude Monet
La Seine à Vétheuil by Claude Monet

The impressionist collections of the MuMa

The Impressionists experienced turbulent times for painting, as evidenced by the craze for the Senn Foulds donation to the MuMa (Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux/ André Malraux Museum of Modern Art), and it is important to remember to what extent their painting was misunderstood, rejected and even held in contempt in their time.
But against the odds, all these artists stayed the course, without trying for a single moment to change it in order to please the public. It was the latter who, little by little, came to them.

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