Last updated: 10:30 AM ET, Fri August 19 2016

This Rail Journey Explores Impressionism

Car Rental & Rail | Monica Poling | August 19, 2016

This Rail Journey Explores Impressionism

Image courtesy of Rail Europe

During the late 1800s, an art movement called Impressionism, with such famed founding fathers as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renior, splashed onto the Parisian art world. The art form, which was both praised and ridiculed, was known for its intense color palettes and depiction of real life scenes.

Lesser known is how much impact the growth of France’s rail system had on Impressionist artists. As Parisians would increasingly use the rail system to escape to the countryside for weekend getaways, swimming, boating and other water activities leapfrogged in popularity. And all along the way, Impressionist painters were on hand to capture the vacation pastimes in their newly flourishing art form. All told, the French countryside would eventually serve as the backdrop for more than a hundred paintings.

Now, Rail Europe, the largest distributor of European rail products, is promoting a new tour that follows the tracks of these Impressionist painters and the region that inspired some of their most famed artworks.

Through Sept. 25, 2016, France’s Normandy region, in partnership with the French National Railway Company “SNCF”, is holding the third annual Normandy Impressionist Festival. This seaside community, located at the junction of the English Chanel and the Atlantic Ocean, will highlight the Impressionist art that was influenced by the steam trains of that era, including such works as “Rain, Steam and Speed” by Turner and “The Gare St-Lazare” showcasing the Parisian train station by Monet.

Three French TER regional express trains, being called the “trains of Impressionism,” are getting an Impressionist makeover this season, as they are wrapped in artworks that duplicate the paintings of Monet and Pissarro.

On board, the trains are being transformed into virtual moving museums as they display the era’s most famous artworks on their walls. Meanwhile, travelers whisk through the same colorful Normandy landscapes that Monet, Renoir and Delacroix saw 150 years ago when they traveled from Paris by steam train.

Departing from the landmark Paris Saint-Lazare train station—the same station that inspired Claude Monet—the train stops at Vernon-Giverny, site of the house and garden where Monet painted his Water lilies series. The train also stops at the Normandy capital, Rouen before heading on to Le Havre, just two hours from Paris. This special service makes departures from Paris every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer.

Travelers who want to make the connection from Paris to Normandy can visit Rail Europe to purchase point-to-point local train ticket. The journey is also included in the France Rail Pass.

For more information, visit To learn more about the Normandy Impressionist Festival, visit

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