The Seine and Oise rivers, villages and horizons of Barbizon, Auvers-sur-Oise and Giverny, the exuberant nature of the Ile des Impressionistes harbor extraordinary light and ethereal scenery. The countryside around Paris began attracting artists in the latter half of the 19th century. The vistas rendered by Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh remain, as do the studios, inns and homes they once frequented.
The forest village of Barbizon drew Corot, Millet, Rousseau, Daubigny, the leaders of the school of painting named for the town. Millet, whose home and studio may be visited, painted farmers in the region, and notably his masterpiece, The Gleaners. Rousseau adored the bountiful nature of the nearby forest of Fontainebleau. The Auberge Ganne, where members of the artist’s colony commiserated, houses the town museum where you will find a unique collection of paintings of the Barbizon School underscoring its influence on the Impressionists.
Renoir alighted on the Ile des Impressionnistes located in a scenic bend of the Seine by Chatou. Upon the island sits the Musée Fournaise, harbouring a delightful restaurant with a museum upstairs. Renoir called it the prettiest place outside of Paris. He depicts it in his masterpiece, Luncheon of the Boating Party, showing his friends on the balcony. You can depart around the sandy island on foot, by car or boat to visit the landscapes of the Impressionists and budding Fauvists. A map is available at the Musée Fournaise.
Van Gogh would paint Auvers-sur-Oise, its church, residents, and farmlands… Venues to visit include the castle, the artists’ studios, and the house of Van Gogh where the artist lived out the last days of his life. Enjoy a 3-course meal downstairs from his bedroom in the Auberge Ravoux, looking as it did in the 19th century when the artist ate there himself. This year the town is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the death of Dr. Gachet, physician, collector, patron of the arts and the subject of Van Gogh’s famous portrait, with special exhibits and events.
A little further a field, another painter would settle into the countryside in the village of Giverny. Claude Monet arrived in 1883. His home, gardens and the immortalized water lily ponds remain, all opened to the public. The newly opened Musée des Impressionnismes organises temporary exhibitions of major painters. Through August 15th, twenty paintings by Monet featuring his gardens are on display with those gardens just 200 meters away for Monet’s studio was one without walls.