Cliffs, mountains and ports are just some of the landscapes that have inspired the world of art. From Normandy to Provence, and Paris to Pont-Aven, the charm of France’s landscapes has never failed to arouse emotion in great artists. KAZoART brings you six landscapes that have inspired the world’s leading painters!

Painted landscapes: The most iconic settings

#1 The Cliffs of Etretat

Etretat is a small port in Upper Normandy known for its impressive cliffs, a picturesque and historic site that has inspired the world’s greatest painters.

Monet, The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset, 1883 / Via Wikimedia Commons
Monet, The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset, 1883 / Via Wikimedia Commons
Monet, The Manneporte (Etretat), 1883 / Via Wikimedia Commons
Monet, The Manneporte (Etretat), 1883 / Via Wikimedia Commons

The spot has attracted a large number of artists interested in exploring the impact of light, from Realists, to Impressionists, Romantics and Fauves. The cliffs of Etretat have been a particular favorite of those who chose to depict them through the medium of paint.

The first painter to have immortalized the colossal arch and its 70-metre crag was none other than Claude Monet, who discovered the site in the late 1860s. Immediately falling for the cliffs’ beauty, he frequently returned to the site over a period of three years. He was so enamored with the location that he produced over 50 paintings on the subject! In all weathers, he painted the cliffs at different times of the day, focusing on the changing light.

Gustave Courbet, The Etretat Cliffs after the Storm, 1870
Gustave Courbet, The Etretat Cliffs after the Storm, 1870

Monet was not the only one to explore the site, however. Gustave Courbet was also inspired by the cliffs, which he famously painted after a storm in 1970. Eugène Delacroix and Eugène Boudin also fell in love with their beauty and immortalized Etretat’s special charm.

#2 Sainte-Victoire Mountain

In Provence, another iconic location helped build the renown of artist Paul Cézanne. Sainte-Victoire Mountain was more than just a landscape for Cézanne. It was a reason to paint in itself. Hailing from Aix-en-Provence, the artist saw the mountain range as his muse, carefully painting it some 20 times. The mountain is now understandably associated with the artist, who depicted it with passion and fascination in several different ways.

 Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibemus Quarry
Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibemus Quarry, 1897 / Paul Cézanne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cézanne’s collection of artworks based on Sainte-Victoire includes not only paintings but also sketches and watercolors. Vegetal and luscious, it dominates the horizon and represents a large part of the painter’s work. Whether bright, triangular, shaded, hidden behind trees, or under a magnificent blue sky, Sainte-Victoire Mountain is and remains the quintessential symbol of Cézanne.

#3 Paris

Renoir, Pont Neuf, 1872 / Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Renoir, Pont Neuf, 1872 / Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh, Paris… who could forget Paris? With everything the capital has inspired in the world of art, it’s difficult to pick out one spot in particular. Painters from across the world have immortalized Paris’ streets and famous landmarks. The Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Montmartre, Gare Saint-Lazare and the city’s rooftops have and continue to offer painters an endless source of inspiration. Painting and Paris are inextricably linked!

 Johan Barthold Jongkind, The Seine and Notre-Dame in Paris
Johan Barthold Jongkind, The Seine and Notre-Dame in Paris, 1864 / Johan Barthold Jongkind [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Paris was a fertile land for Impressionists, Fauves and Cubists alike. Its vast landscape has been reflected in every style, and echoes every artistic consideration… from Van Gogh and his Montmartre series, to Renoir and his famous Bal du Moulin de la Galette, and of course Camille Pissarro’s views of the Seine and Marc Chagall’s own depiction of the Eiffel Tower.

#4 The Port of Marseilles

 Georges Braque, L’Estaque, 1908
Georges Braque, L’Estaque, 1908

France’s deeply inspiring ports have also played a key role in developing the style and substance of the world’s painters. Marseilles’ port has notably caught the attention of many iconic artists. For 60 years, the city, and the port of L’Estaque in particular, have been tackled by a multitude of painters. It was here in part that modern painting was born.

 Paul Signac, View of the Port of Marseilles
Paul Signac, View of the Port of Marseilles, 1905 / Paul Signac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The city and its port have been depicted in different ways depending on the movement, and Impressionism, Cubism and Fauvism have all provided notable perspectives on the area, from a wealth of different artists, including Braque, Cézanne, Renoir, Dufy, Signac and Matisse.

#5 Brittany

 Eugène Boudin, View of the Port of Quimper
Eugène Boudin, View of the Port of Quimper, (circa 1857, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper) / By Eugène Boudin (1824-1898) (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The landscapes of Brittany had a notable impact on the pre-Impressionist painter Eugène Boudin. As a lover of seascapes and a great traveler, the artist found a wealth of subjects to explore in Brittany. Other painters, too, have fallen under the region’s spell, including William Turner and Paul Gauguin.

J.M.W. Turner, The Harbor of Brest, 1826
J.M.W. Turner, The Harbor of Brest, 1826
Paul Gauguin, Landscape in Brittany, The David Mill, 1894 © Musée d’Orsay
Paul Gauguin, Landscape in Brittany, The David Mill, 1894 © Musée d’Orsay

The banks of the Aven, Concarneau and its harbor, Douarnenez and its cliffs, and, of course, Belle-Ile en Mer have all acted as anchors and landmarks for many great painters.

#6 Le Havre

 Claude Monet, Fishing Boats Leaving the Harbor, Le Havre
Claude Monet, Fishing Boats Leaving the Harbor, Le Havre, 1874 / Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Le Havre has not escaped the attention of the world’s painters. Located near Honfleur, another hub of painting, Le Havre has drawn artists in with its port, unique light, and the River Seine. It was here that Monet painted his famous artwork Impression, Sunrise, which provided the name for the Impressionist movement. The artist was deeply inspired by the region and painted other works there too, including Garden at Sainte-Adresse and Fishing Boats Leaving the Harbor.

Other artists have also fallen for the charm of Le Havre’s port, including Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro, and Maurice de Vlaminck. As well as the Impressionists, many Fauve artists also honed their skills in Le Havre. Orthon Frisz and Raoul Dufy notably produced a number of canvases depicting the region.


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