The impressionist movement is in the spotlight at the Réunion des Musées Métropolitains (RMM) in Rouen! No less than six exhibitions and three artistic projects are proposed in four museums of the agglomeration, the opportunity to (re)discover major artists as well as lesser known figures such as the ceramist Camille Moreau-Nélaton, the photographer Antonin Personnaz, the collector François Depeaux or contemporary artists. Here’s an overview of these exhibitions, to be discovered until November 15, 2020!

Six impressionist exhibitions in the Rouen museums

François Depeaux, the man with 600 paintings, at the Fine Arts Museum

François Depeaux
François Depeaux

François Depeaux (1853-1920) was a rich industrialist from Rouen who made his fortune in coal. A passionate collector, he acquired nearly 600 paintings including many works by Sisley, Monet, Renoir…

Close to artists and a visionary art lover, he was one of the first to take an interest in Impressionism at a time when many were still sulking about this new movement. He was thus the first to acquire a painting from the series of Monet’s Cathedrals in 1892 and gave his support to the artists. He was also very close to Sisley, who was unable to achieve the success of his Impressionist colleagues during his lifetime. Depeaux wrote, “I do not understand why Sisley’s paintings are difficult to sell, given that, in my opinion, of the Impressionist school, he is certainly the one whose painting contains the most poetry and who will continue to be best understood”.

In 1909 he donated about fifty canvases to the city of Rouen, thus ensuring the entry of the Impressionist movement into french public collections. Auguste Leblond, then mayor of Rouen, declared “I could not help but feel a legitimate joy at the thought that Rouen would no longer have to envy Paris for its rich collection”.

Thanks to several loans this exhibition brings together works from the museums of Rouen with a few others now scattered in other museums or private collections in order to restore part of its collection. We thus discover the artistic, economic and philanthropic adventure of François Depeaux.

Léon-Jules Lemaître, through the streets of Rouen, at the Fine Arts Museum

The Fine Arts Museum of Rouen celebrates a local child! Léon-Jules Lemaître is one of the most representative artists of the school of Rouen. A talented student, he won a scholarship that allowed him to continue his career in Paris where he attended the first Impressionist exhibitions.

In the 1890s he specialized in the production of views of Rouen which met with great success. Even today, the exhibition still pleases visitors who can enjoy the views of the paintings in the city.

Antonin Personnaz impressionist photographer, at the Fine Arts Museum

Antonin Personnaz (1854-1936) was a great collector of impressionist art. He bequeathed 142 artworks by major artists such as Degas, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley to the french national museums. We know less about another of his facets however, that of an active member of the French Society of Photography.

Alphonse Osbert, Antonin Personnaz
Alphonse Osbert, Antonin Personnaz

In 1907 the Lumière brothers marketed the autochrome, the first color photographic process. This instrument was a great success especially with Antonin Personnaz for whom the granular and pointillist rendering of the autochrome plate recalls the style of the Impressionists. He thus produced more than a thousand pictures, some of which show painters at work or landscapes close to those represented by the artists. The exhibition presents some of these autochromes.

The secret herbarium of Giverny, at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum of Rouen looks at Monet’s work from an angle combining art and science. The exhibition L’herbier secret de Giverny (The Secret Herbarium of Giverny) compares paintings by the Master with herbarium boards collected in Giverny (where Claude Monet spent half of his life) by his son-in-law Jean-Pierre Hoschedé.

Claude Monet, around Giverny, 1885

While in the XVIIIth century the constitution of herbariums was reserved for the learned circles, this practice was widely democratized in the XIXth century. These herbariums make it possible today to draw up a panorama of the flora of Normandy at the time of the Belle Epoque and to follow the evolution of the species on the territory.

By confronting these herbarium boards with Monet’s paintings, the exhibition offers us a new look at the painter, revealing his passion for botany. We can thus see an atypical poppy taken in Giverny, whose discovery is attributed to Claude Monet and which was baptized “papaver moneti”.

Camille Moreau-Nélaton, a woman ceramist in the time of the Impressionists, at the Ceramics museum

Portrait of Camille Moreau-Nélaton
Portrait of Camille Moreau-Nélaton

This is the first time that an exhibition is dedicated to Camille Moreau-Nélaton who was a talented impressionist artist.

In the bourgeois society of the late 19th century, women were still far from being liberated. They were expected to take care of the home and it was unthinkable for them to work outside. Painting and sewing were approved, but they were to remain a leisure activity. If Camille Moreau-Nélaton was able to exhibit and sell her creations despite this context it is thanks to her husband’s open-mindedness. However, since profiting from her earnings would have been considered indecent, she donated all her income to charity.

Despite this amateur status imposed by the societal rules of the time, Camille Moreau-Nélaton was recognized during her lifetime as one of the greatest specialists in ceramics.

The exhibition brings together pieces that are now scattered throughout public and private collections, allowing visitors to observe a range of her work, particularly in the treatment of decoration, enamel and color.

Crinolines and hats, fashion at the time of the impressionists, at the industrial museum of the Corderie Vallois

The Corderie Vallois industrial museum preserves an industrial heritage from the beginning of the 19th century. This former cotton spinning mill, closed in 1978, has been converted into a museum thanks to the perseverance of an association that fought to preserve it. Maintained in its original state, it is still possible to see the machines in operation during guided tours.

Starting from the observation that fashion is omnipresent in the paintings of impressionist painters who enjoyed representing the living environment of their contemporaries in the city as well as in the countryside, the exhibition Crinolines and Hats compares clothes from the end of the 19th century with paintings.

In fashion as in painting, the end of the 19th century was a pivotal period thanks to commercial innovations such as the arrival of haute couture or department stores, but also technical innovations with the appearance of synthetic dyes. With this colorful fashion show, the exhibition allows to travel in time and gives (almost) the impression to enter the canvases!


Artistic projects

Parallel to these exhibitions, the RMM is open to current creation by presenting three contemporary projects with a link to the Impressionist movement. All three are presented in the Musée des Beaux Arts.

Claire Tabouret

This French artist living in Los Angeles experienced her first encounter with painting at the age of four in front of Monet’s Water Lilies. Her work today revolves around representations of the body.

“As a kind of evidence. from the moment I am confronted with the Water Lilies, the lack is immediately felt. Since then, I tried to paint as much as possible to find this first state of stupor encountered with Monet’s painting.”

Claire Tabouret, The Arch, 2018

Jean-Baptiste Bernadet

Painter of the color, Jean-Baptiste Bernardet presents intense and lively works. The canvas presented in the museum evokes impressionist painting and gives the impression of being in front of a saturated version of the Water Lilies.

Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, Fugue, 2019

Black Water Lilies

Place to the Comic strip in the project “Nymphéas noirs” by Michel Bussi, Didier Cassegrain and Fred Duval. They present the plates of their comic book adaptation of the eponymous novel by Michel Bussi which is also a tribute to Impressionist painting.


Visit the online exhibitions

From Paris, Rouen can be reached in only 1h30 by train and some train tickets are offered at €20! It is therefore very easy to go and visit these exhibitions. It is therefore very easy to visit these exhibitions which are accessible with a one-way ticket proposed at € 11. If you still can’t make it to Rouen, these exhibitions are accessible virtually and free of charge on the website of the Réunion des Musées Métropolitains de Rouen Normandie, which already gives you a good overview.


Normandy Impressionist 2020

These exhibitions are part of the Normandy Impressionnist festival wich, since 2010, seeks to celebrate the Normandy region through its impressionist heritage. This avant-garde movement was a real revolution in the artistic field, freeing itself from the academic canons. Focused on day-to-day life, this painting was carried by about thirty artists who knew how to group together to present their paintings outside of the usual salons.

For the fourth edition of Normandy Impressionnist, the emphasis is on day-to-day color and opens up to current creation to celebrate artistic creation in all its forms.

Enjoy your visit!

Article proposed as part of a media partnership with the Réunion des Musées Métropolitains de Rouen Normandie.

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