Anyone can book a trip with a French flair, but making your theme French Impressionism ensures that you learn as much as you enjoy. Whether your passion lies in Monet, Degas or Renoir, you’re sure to find a wealth of information and culture by visiting the places these artists lived, worked and played.
We start with Seurat, who was born in Paris, formed the Societe des Artistes Independent with Albert Dubois-Pillet, Odilon Redon and Paul Signac. In an effort to follow in the footsteps of a non-conformist like Seurat, consider museums off the beaten path. With deepest apologies to the Louvre, a must see is Musee d’Orsay located at 62, rue de Lille. Every major impressionist is housed in this converted railroad station. The view outside of the Right Bank is one of those amazing sights of Paris that visitors often talk about.
Musee d’Orsay – Photo by dalbera
Another lesser-known stop in Paris is Musee Mormottan. It is located between Boulevards des Marechaux and Av. Raphel. It has a vast collection of all the greats of the impressionism movement, including Cezanne, Seurat, Renoir and Monet.
Claude Monet lived in Giverny from 1883 to 1926, and you can still tour his house. The house reflects the painter’s own tastes from the decor all the way to how the house is laid out. The only additions are replicas of Monet’s own works so that you can appreciate the artist in his entirety while touring. Monet’s garden is divided into two sections: a flower garden and a water garden created in the popular Japanese style of the time. The garden is intentionally unorganized, allowing colours to bloom there freely, inviting you to enjoy a leisurely stroll through nature as it was intended. After touring Monet’s joint gardens, explore the rest of Giverny as a day trip from Paris. Van Gogh lived in a neighbouring town, so you can keep your trip art-themed by traveling to nearby Auvers sur Oise. When you’re finished, head over to the old Hôtel Baudy, now a restaurant in a location that was once the center of art in Giverny.
Édouard Manet, a revolutionary artist, struggled with acceptance into the Salon during his lifetime, and his studio was also destroyed during the siege, so not a lot remains for touring. His works, however, frequently go on display at the Musée d’Orsay. Manet often depicted cafés, so a tour of the Parisian social scene may help you feel connected to the artist. Café de la Paix was a beloved place of Émile Zola, long-time friend of Manet, and was declared a historical site in 1975. The building, inaugurated in 1862, has been at the heart of the art scene for 150 years and has served customers like Oscar Wilde and Marlene Dietrich. Stop in for brunch or for one of their famous pastries.
Café de la Paix - Photo by VicWJ
Looking for the home of Renoir? Travel 240 miles south of Pairs to the ancient cathedral city of Limoges. The city is actually most famous for medieval enamels on porcelain and later works of porcelain including boxes, plates, cups and saucers. Renoir is claimed as a native son, but he did spend most of his career in Paris. Limoges, however, is still a wonderful city to explore.
A walking tour of the city should include Limoges Cathedral, City Center and the Botanical Gardens. A visit to Limoges should also include Musee Municipal de l’Evech, located in a former palace in Cathedral Square. It has one the largest collections in the world of medieval enamels and painted enamels from the Renaissance. There are also collections of paintings, drawings, sculptures and even a collection of Egyptian antiquities.
Though Edgar Degas was born in Paris, he spent some time in New Orleans, and you can tour his house there today. Located about a dozen blocks from the French Quarter, this is the only site of his open to the public. The second and third floors are available as a bed and breakfast, and you can also book events here. One of his descendants offers guided tours through the home daily and is happy to direct you through the house where Degas created at least 22 of his famous works despite his short stay. The house is situated near the New Orleans Museum of Art, so when you’re finished browsing the works of Degas, you can head over to see what’s on display.
Add some culture to your next trip, and travel through French Impressionism the way it’s meant to be seen.
Lela Lake is a seasoned traveller who shares her love of exploration and discovery with her readers. Originally from Texas, she has lived in several countries around the world including France. Lela writes about her backpacking adventures for Hostelbookers.com.