In the historic centre of Rouen stands a structure of Neoclassical style known as the Musée des beaux-arts de Rouen, translated as the Fine Arts Museum of Rouen in France. Founded in 1801 at the behest of Napoleon Bonaparte and built between 1877 and 1888, Designed by architect Louis Sauvegeot, it consisted of 60 halls and was last renovated by architect Andrée Putman in 1994. At the entrance of the building is a large and bright sculpture garden room. The museum is home to the richest collections of French decorative paintings from the 15th to the 21st century. The paintings and sculptures represent the primary artistic schools of Europe from the Renaissance until today, including a collection of Russian icons and impressionist works. The famous works are those of Gérard David, Caravaggio, Rubens, Degas, the Duchamp brothers, Veronese, Fragonard, Ingres, Modigliani, Clouet, Velasquez, Poussin, or Géricault, and display other 8,000 rich-quality drawings of international stature with new themes. The impressionist paintings of Rouen enamoured the artists of the movement. The museum also boasts a beautiful collection of sculptures showcased in the dreamy courtyard called the sculpture garden.

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The Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen_©

History of the Museum | Musée des Beaux-Arts

The history of the place dates to 1790 when the first formation of the first public collection began, and later in 1801, it was created after the revolution by the Chaptal Decree. In 1799, the initial stages were made public with 244 paintings in the Jesuit Church before transferring to the new city hall. When Democritus by Veláquez was added, the collections grew, and the museum’s founder deposited his masterpiece, the Justice of Trajan, at the museum in 1844. In a short time, donations began to outnumber admissions when the works of Gerad David, Veronese, and Rubens were sent to the museum in 1803. The other works that were adding enormously to purchases and donations were Clouet, Van Dyck, Puget, Ingres, Moreau, and Traversi. The museum was named the most comprehensive in France after Paris as the collections increased from 300 to 600 pictures in 1878.

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the glass covered courtyard_©

The need to expand the structure and house the other collection began, and a new wing was added to the mayor’s commission in 1873. The project was given to the architect Louis Sauvageot, and by 1888 the complex housed the museum and library. Later, the magnificent architecture was renovated by Andrée Putman in 1994. The collections were expanded to a new scale thanks to some remarkable donations of impressionists by François Depeaux in 1909, Jacques-Émile Blanche drawings in 1975, and Modigliani’s from the Alexandre family in 1988-2001, as well as new purchases of splendid Caravaggio and Poussin in 1955. 

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interior of the museum_©

The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen has France’s second-largest collection of impressionism. One can admire the general view of Rouen, the portal and the tower of Albane, the splendid grey weather by Claode Monet, and the Boieldieu Bridge in Rouen, as well as great works by Pissarro like the setting sun, foggy weather, and works by Sisley, Caillebotte, and Renoir. But the exception stands for Fraçois Depeaux; the museum succeeded in constructing this set of works of art with the help of industrialists from Rouen who supported the great impressionist masters and less famous painters of the Rouen School. The works of Monet, Pissarro, and Gauguin, which featured 126 paintings, including 11 from Monet’s Cathedral Series, referred to the museum as “the town of impressionism.” Bringing so many masterpieces under one roof is an accomplishment. 

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interior of the museum_©

The collections 

Impressionism is the art of capturing the fleeting impression, how the eye perceives things in specific atmospheric and lighting conditions. Monet tried to take this art to a high level and create a series of the same place or the same thing at different times of the day. His works became so crucial for impressionism that they became the start of abstraction. The series of the façade of the cathedral of Rouen is considered the pinnacle of impressionism and the purest state of this art; the artist worked on different series of canvases at different times of the day. The museum is an outstanding house of such collections, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and art objects from every school from the 15th century to the present. Significant landmarks include titles by Perugino, Clouet, Veronese, and Gerard David and a magnificent group of 17th-century paintings by Rubens, Velaquez, Caravaggio, LaHyre, and Le Sueur.

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Then, adding to the collections, the sculptors of the 18th century placed themselves in rooms with paintings by Hubert Robert, Boucher, and Fragonard. The paintings of Monet and Ingres, as well as the breadth and beauty of the collection, give the museum its highest mark of impressionist art.Several masterpieces by Géricault, Delacroix, Corot, Gustave Moreau, and Degas represented the museum in remarkable ways. The François Depeaux donation in 1909 established the museum as having the highest collection of impressionist art outside Paris. Followed by the 20th-century art introduced by the brothers Modigliani, Duchamp, and Dufy, later abstract art was added to the museum by artists such as Viera di Silva, Dubuffet, and Nemours. Given the works of Delvovye and Varini, the museum also exhibits 21st-century art.

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Gerard David, Vierge entre les Vierges_©

Regular exhibitions of the Musée des Beaux-Arts collections have contributed to its glowing reputation. The museum’s graphic art section contemplates the collection of 8,000 odd drawings that are famous worldwide. The extraordinary donation of 5,000 drawings by Henri and Suzanne Baderou in 1975, including significant pieces by Vouet, Tiepolo, Ingres, and Degas, has allowed the museum to unveil its wealth of collection.

François Clouet, Le Bain de Diane (Les Nobles baigneuses), Deutsch: Bad der Diana, 1550–1559_©


Culture trip. (2021) The Best Museums Rouen in France. Available at:

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Perugino 2023.Musée des Beaux-Arts – Rouen. Available at:

Réunion des musées métropolitains rouen normandie. The Museum. Available at:

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Salma sultana graduated master’s in architecture from the Iuav university of architecture Italy, born in 1992, and obtained her bachelor's from India, she works for her own architecture practice named Zahaa designs. She likes to be a curator of architecture exhibitions also curated for the la biennale exhibition in Arsenale in Venezia. She a Ph.D. student of a german university in Brandenburg working on historical architecture conservation her final achievement in the field of architecture is to create an innovative sustainable solution for concrete and bring awareness by joining a teaching profession in the sustainable architecture department.