Throughout my time in France, I have been attending a language school who occasionally put on cultural trips to supplement our learning, which I think is great! Our most recent excursion took us from Chatou to Bougival, via Croissy-sur-Seine, to discover more about the Impressionist painters of the later 1880s.
Starting at the RER station of Chatou-Croissy, we made our way down to the long stretch of pathway along to banks of the Seine, also known as ‘la Riviera’. It was a common hangout for painters such as Monet and Renoir, and is where they painted works such as ‘La Grenouillère‘ (Renoir, 1869) and ‘Les Bains de la Grenouillère‘ (Monet, 1869).
In fact, these two paintings were painted whilst the artists, who were close friends from their art school days, sat side-by-side beside the river. As a result, the paintings are very similar, obviously having the same subject matter and points of reference.
Along the way, we encountered a bit of street art, which, although not Impressionist in its style, was pretty good! As well as having our school teachers accompany us, the Art teacher at La CLEF (where I go to learn French) came along to teach us about the developments at the time.
As most of us know, today, paints are most commonly sold in tubes which are relatively easy to carry with us and take outside. Back in the early days of Impressionism, paints like this did not exist, and so artists were forced to do the majority of their work in their studio, where the paints were. Then came the invention of paint in tubes, and as if by magic, artists were suddenly able to take their paints with them outside of their studios, without running the risk of them drying out. Renoir and Monet, for example, were therefore able to paint on the banks of the river, and could capture the moment there and then.
Our walk ended in Bougival, another stomping ground of the Impressionists, with a very pleasant picnic along the aptly-named ‘Chemin des Impressionnistes’. It was an absolutely great way to spend the morning, and if I had more time in France I would definitely return if I was at a loose end one day.