Summer is the perfect time to soak in the heat and immerse yourself in the sensuous offerings of earth’s bounty. Make some time and create some lovely memories – find your favorite river, lake or watering hole, invite your friends and create a picnic, or as the French call it le pique-nique. Whether you enjoy a night out at the Hollywood Bowl; head to the Finger Lake region of NY or simply find yourself a nearby stream and shady tree, you should feel inspired that you are following in the footsteps of the amazing French impressionists.
In 1863, Edouard Manet created the shocking (at the time) painting Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass) and this painting inspired similar works by Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet.
This “birth” of impressionism has brought us to the present moment where in the city of Rouen, Normandy, the region in northern France that was home to Claude Monet and a hotbed of impressionist activity in the latter half of the 19th century, is hosting its first-ever Impressionist Festival. From June to September, over 150 events celebrate the arts and culture influenced by the impressionist movement—not just painting (with 15 major exhibitions), but also music, dance, theater, photography, architecture, and more.
This summer, guingettes will be revived throughout the region. The lively open-air cafés were popular among—and immortalized on canvas by—impressionist artists; often set on the banks of a river like the Seine, the guingettes were characterized by carefree music, dance, games, drinks, and food. In the spirit of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s The Boating Party, find yourself some summer fun.
One of the festival’s final events is the Great Impressionist Ball in Rouen on September 24. The public is invited to the indoor/outdoor ball, under only one condition: They must come dressed in white. As the crowd dances, it will serve as a blank canvas, on which a light artist will project splashes of color—like brushstrokes—an effect that will be captured on video and displayed on a wide screen so that the audience can watch themselves become transformed into a work of art.
Impressionist Festival Location
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen
Esplanade Marcel Duchamp 76000 ROUEN
Date Friday 4 June to Sunday 26 September.
Contact details • Tel: + 33 (0)2 35 71 28 40 • Fax: + 33 (0)2 35 15 43 23
For a full list of events, including Seine cruises, picnics, painting workshops (learn to paint in one of Monet’s actual studios!), cooking classes, and special itineraries, visit
Wines we are packing in our picnic baskets this summer include:
Conundrum, California White Table Wine, (2008) $21, a complex blend of white grapes,partially fermented in stainless steel and oak barrels for up to 10 months; tropical fruity with a round acid balance; perfect with drier cheeses, fish, salads, pasta – and even desserts. To locate a retailer near you: www.whatsyourconundrum.com (see “where to buy”)
Grigch Hills Chardonnay Napa Valley (2006) (biodynamic) $45. A rich California Chardonnay infuses floral notes with lemon, honey, and minerals. https://www.grgich.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=productdetail&product_id=135
La Soufrandière Pouilly-Vinzelles les Quarts (2008) (biodynamic) $25. A white from France. Pouilly-Vinzelles tastes like ripe peaches aged with hazelnut and minerals.