Since its foundation in 1870, Wally Findlay Galleries has been an international leader in representing France’s historic School of Rouen.
The term l’Ecole de Rouen, coined in 1902 by the French critic Arsene Alexandre, refers to a group of mainly French artists who worked in the city of Rouen, in Normandy, during the late-19th and early-twentieth centuries. These post-Impressionist artists, born between 1849 and 1898, followed in the footsteps of earlier great Impressionists, such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, and Alfred Sisley. The members of the School of Rouen were drawn to the city as an escape from the strict academic attitudes found in the salons and galleries of Paris at the time.
The artists of the School of Rouen prized artistic independence and individuality, often experimenting with movements such as Fauvism (in which artists prized painterly qualities and strong colors over representation), Divisionism (in which color is broken down into its basic elements and presented on the canvas in tiny dots), and even Cubism (a practice in which the subject is depicted from a multitude of viewpoints, in order to represent the figure in a greater context). These free-thinking characteristics resulted in the Rouennaise artists’ separation from other French artistic groups. The term l’Ecole de Rouen arose as a means to differentiate these so-called rebels from the remainder of the art world that was centered in Paris at the time.
In Rouen, these artists – the first generation of whom included Albert Lebourg, Charles Angrand, and Joseph Delattre – continued to paint en plein aire, as their predecessors had. These artists delighted in the area’s ability to satisfy their love of nature, and drew inspiration from the beautiful open plains, nearby hills of Canteleu and Cote Sainte Catherine, and the river valleys surrounding the Seine. They strove constantly to capture on canvas the effects of light and atmosphere that they witnessed first-hand while at work in the outdoors. Nature was not the only subject for the painters of the School of Rouen, however: countless images also depict the city’s cathedral (famously documented in a series by Monet), the churches of St. Ouen and St. Maclou, and other buildings, both cultural and industrial.
Many of the members of the School of Rouen gained their education at l’Academie de Peinture et de Dessin de Rouen. The first representatives of the group exhibited at Durand-Ruel Galerie in Paris, the Galerie Legrip in Rouen, and the Societe des Artistes Rouennais (also located in Rouen, and founded by the Rouennais artists Paul Mascart and Marcel Delaunay in 1907). As time progressed, the School of Rouen became increasingly established in France. In 1925, the first salon devoted to Rouennais art – the Salon Normande – was established in Paris.
This important event signaled the public’s recognition of the school as a true artistic movement in Paris. Following Lebourg, Angrand, and Delattre, the next wave in the School of Rouen saw the development of artists such as Robert Pinchon, Pierre Dumont, Georges Bradberry, and Charles Frechon. Frechon’s career in particular spurred American interest in the school: in 1901, Frechon was discovered by the Durand-Ruel Galerie. The gallery began to show his work in their New York City location, and quickly attracted and encouraged the interest of American collectors, not only in Frechon’s work, but also in the work of the School of Rouen as a whole.
Today, the work of artists from the School of Rouen is prized internationally as an important part of the history of French Impressionism. This is a history that Wally Findlay Galleries is proud to represent.