THE SAINT-SIMÉON FARM
Ideally situated on a breathtaking location in the surroundings of Honfleur, the Saint Siméon Farm stands as one of the landmarks of impressionism in Normandy.
Firstly the old farm that acted as an inn was much appreciated by the nearby fishermen who enjoyed there the warmth of the generous table held by the tenant, Madame Toutain, and her daughters.
Indeed, they served gorgeous and fresh off the boat seafood – mackerel with sorrel sauce was the specialty of the house ! – alongside large amounts of well-deserved cider.
But soon enough, the artists were the ones who fully took advantage from the beautiful setting of the inn overlooking the Seine River’s estuary. The Saint Siméon farm indeed offered both a peaceful and contemplative stay as well as a low-budget pension much appreciated by those broken painters in the 19th century.
Madame Toutain was even keen on giving credit to those struggling artists who would hardly pay their rent: So, she agreed to take some of their paintings instead !
For instance, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet and many more like Frédéric Bazille or Jean-Baptiste Corot came to be frequent guests at the Saint Siméon Farm in the 1860’s. Can you only imagine?
All those painters, whose works you can now admire at the Orsay Museum and who back then were hardly renown, living together in the same place! Monet once said for instance about his days at Madame Toutain’s inn:
« Every day I discover more and more beautiful things, it’s thrilling! I’m so happy with my stay here although my work is still far from what I wished… How admirably we feel at Saint Siméon ».
While we can perfectly picture the distractions that might arouse in such a merry company, working and creating was very much part of the day to day life at the inn.
Therefore, this unique atmosphere, away from modern life in a thriving environment for exchanging ideas over art as made some argue that the Saint Siméon Farm has been one of the birthplaces of Impressionism as a movement.
This glorious era came to an end when the farm was later sold. Madame Toutain had to leave, taking away with her the paintings she had received for payment as well as some door panels that the artists had used as canvases.
These days the place still stands and serves for accommodation since a Relais & Châteaux hotel opened there. They even have found drawings from Monet behind the shutters during the renovation !
Make sure you get a chance to take an inspiring breath with us at the Saint Siméon Farm where we make a stop during our Honfleur day trip from Paris !