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Throughout the ages, the sun has never ceased to inspire artists. This fascinating star by its brilliance, capable of being reborn every day, has been the central point of many paintings. This is notably the case in “Impression, soleil levant” (“Impression, Sunrise”), the mythical painting by Claude Monet in 1872, which gave its name to the Impressionist movement.

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of this painting, the Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris pays tribute to the jewel of its collection with an exhibition that focuses on the representation of the sun in art. Overview of this exhibition-event to be seen until January 29, 2023.

Article produced in partnership with Les voyages impressionnistes

The Sun, a star in the arts… and in science

If the Sun has always illuminated the painting, its place in art has however evolved as scientific knowledge has developed. Over the centuries, art has never stopped looking at science.

Since ancient times, the sun has fascinated: this star that is reborn every day and gives life to the seasons, appears as the symbol of eternity and abundance. It is represented as golden (the most precious and magical metal) or ochre (evoking the blood that flows in the human being).

In the 16th century, it was realized that the Sun is at the center of the universe: it is not the Sun that revolves around the Earth but the opposite! This discovery changes the perspective of man and artists give him a central place: in the landscapes of Vernet or Rubens, as in the compositions of Giordano, man becomes humble.

To justify their place in society, the Kings, sovereigns of divine right, will, in the following century, seek to identify themselves with the Sun and multiply the ancient references. The star appeared on the ceilings of palaces, in sculptures and in the decorative arts. Louis XIV, the “Sun King”, did not hesitate to put the star at his service but also participated in a better knowledge of the Sun. He founded the Observatory of Paris and the Royal Academy of Sciences, which were to become major centres of world astronomy.

In the 18th century, romantic literature influenced paintings and the sun took on a mystical connotation. A few years later, artists no longer show what we see but what we know: the sun is no longer just a yellow ball in the sky but a radiation of multitudes of particles, as in Signac or Derain.

In 1915, Einstein demonstrates with his theory of general relativity that the universe is distorted and that the Milky Way is a galaxy among billions of others. These discoveries change the look of artists who change scale, as the “constellations” of Miro and sculptures Calder or the work of Fromanger who translates the dilation of space in his work entitled … Impression, soleil levant 2019, paying tribute to Monet!

Facing the sun, an exhibition at the Marmottan Monet museum
Gérard Fromanger, Impression, soleil levant 2019 – 2019 – Anna Kamp © Studio Christian Baraja SLB

This exhibition is a journey through space and time. It takes us through the centuries and returns on the formidable epic of the knowledge of the universe. See you at the Marmottan Monet Museum until January 29, 2023!

Impression, Sunrise: the 150th anniversary of a mythical painting

One morning in November 1872, Claude Monet painted this canvas in Normandy, from a hotel in the port of Le Havre, his hometown. He represents a simple moment: a sunrise reflected in the water, which he named at first “View of Le Havre”.

When Monet exhibited it in 1874, Renoir’s brother suggested he choose another name; “Put Impression! – said Monet. Wanting to make fun of this exhibition, the art critic Louis Leroy used this title to entitle his article “The Impressionist Exhibition”. The title hit the nail on the head and, without knowing it, Louis Leroy had just named a new artistic movement: Impressionism was born!

Walk in the footsteps of the Impressionists

Claude Monet, like many other painters, found his inspiration from Le Havre to Paris, between Île-de-France and Normandy, territories that saw the birth of Impressionism.

In Giverny, Rouen, Auvers, Chatou or Etretat, follow in the footsteps of the Impressionists and discover the places that inspired so many artists.

Facing the Sun, the dazzling exhibition at the Marmottan Monet museum 9
Claude Monet’s house in Giverny

Useful informations

2 Louis Boilly street
75016 Paris

Opening hours:
Until January 29, 2023
Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 6pm
Nocturne on Thursday until 9 pm


Full price: 12 €
Reduced price : 8 € (for children under 7 years old)
Free for children under 7 years old

Article realized in partnership with Impressionist Adventures

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