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Tuesday 5th November 2019


 ‘The River of Light’: The Cradle of Impressionism

Carole Petipher gave a lively and very interesting lecture on Impressionism.

After graduating with a degree in French and Spanish she worked in the French steel industry and quickly became Sales and Development manager for the UK industry. Deciding to take a sabbatical, she took a trip on a French barge and as a consequence, her life took a different turn.   Living on a series of boats, she travelled the rivers of France and from the Seine, the ‘River of Light’ she began her research on the works and lives of young painters who became known as ‘The Impressionists’.

To illustrate her talk, she used a combination of pictures of well known, lesser known and unknown pictures of artists interspersed with her own amusing anecdotes.

The sparkling Seine estuary attracted artists, writers and musicians alike.   Artists flocked to the picturesque harbour of Honfleur and its surroundings to capture, in particular, the estuarial light. Tourism began to develop and the resorts of Deauville and Trouville became popular for sea bathing. This was a symbol of the new age and offered new, interesting motifs to paint.

Carole continued her lecture describing the forerunners and key influencers behind the radical new wave of young artists: such as Turner, Eugene Boudin, Daubigney, Jongkind, Courbet and Dubourg. The young Monet was to take his first painting lesson in the open air under the tutelage of Boudin who had revolutionised painting outside in the open air.

The architect Baron Haussmann revitalised the city of Paris and it became one of the most elegant and outwardly prosperous cities in Europe. To the west of the city lay the Seine and a tiny loop in the river became nicknamed as ‘the cradle of impressionism’. Four artists Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley were the founder members of the group. They struggled to make a living and gain recognition: a far cry from the universal popularity which the paintings enjoy today. Monet and Renoir painted each other to avoid the cost of models and were to become great friends.

Monet moved to the small town of Agenteuil where he painted all aspects of modern life and his house was to become the meeting place for the circle of artists. The town became fashionable for sailing and annual regattas took place during the summer.

Following the Franco Prussian war, the artists had to come to terms with a radically changed and depressed market and economy. The final lecture showed how the artists continued to develop their careers and eventually formed their own independent society to be free from ‘The Salon.’ As original painters started to drift away, new members joined: Caillebotte, Manet, Seurat and Signac and later Van Gogh. Monet moved to Giverny where his friend Caillebotte helped to design the famous garden.