Chef-lieu of a canton in Yvelines (78)
Unpublished stage town
Population: 31,653 (Catoviens, Catoviennes)
Personalities: André Derain (painter, born in Chatou), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Maurice de Vlaminck (painters), Pierre Desproges (humorist), Georges Mandel (politician), Jean Marais (actor, lived in Chatou as a child), Philippe and Sylvain Tesson (writers, father and son), Martial Solal (jazz pianist).
Sport: some sources claim that Chatou is the first town in France where football was played. AS Chatou.
Festivals: national antiques and ham fair, Festival Island (contemporary art), Elektrik Park Festival (electronic music).
Economy: tertiary sector, EDF study and research site.
Labels: towns and villages in bloom (1 flower) / Pays des Impressionnistes.
Websites: www.chatou.fr / www.seine-saintgermain.fr / www.yvelines.fr / www.sortir-yvelines.fr / www.saintgermainbouclesdeseine.fr
CHATOU, A STORY
At the source of Impressionism
Arriving by the Chatou bridge, you only have to look at the Seine and its banks to feel the change of scenery. The whole environment is bathed in blue-green hues: the water of the river, the trees, the bushes along it and the sky. You notice immediately that you are in the land of the Impressionists.
One of the main reasons for the enthusiasm of artists and strollers for the banks of the Seine was the construction, in 1837, of the first passenger railway linking Paris Saint-Lazare station to Le Pecq. Painters, poets and with them the whole Parisian bohemian scene flocked there. Some sought inspiration in the landscape, others simply sought entertainment or fresh air. Renoir, Manet, Monet and Caillebotte came to soak up the ever-changing atmosphere of nature and the brilliance of its colours and to enjoy the guinguettes along the banks between Chatou and Croissy.
The painters brought along the poets and writers, notably Guy de Maupassant, a canoeist in his spare time. They lunched and boozed at the famous Fournaise restaurant. This inn stands in the heart of the Impressionists' island, as well as the Maison Levanneur, located a few blocks away. On Sunday afternoons, bourgeois, artists, poets and young onlookers enjoyed good food, chatting, boating and partying. The best-known testimony to those happy moments is Auguste Renoir's famous painting Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Around 1902, a new generation of painters, also inspired by the place, proposed a new artistic approach. It seems that this place has a magical power over artists! André Derain, born in Chatou, and Maurice de Vlaminck, originally from Le Vésinet, thus gave birth to Fauvism.
Despite the vicissitudes of time and the urbanistic fashions of the 1970s and 80s, the town has managed to preserve a unique atmosphere. A town of gardens, it hides real heritage wonders that will surprise visitors.
CHATOU AND CYCLING
Chatou is the lucky winner of this fourth consecutive start of the last Tour de France stage from the Yvelines department, which will host it until at least 2023. Yvelines is a land of choice for cycling as Paris-Nice has been taking off from it for a decade while it will be the cycling site (road, track, mountain bike, BMX) for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. In 2018, Paris-Nice started in Chatou, for a stage to Meudon, won by Arnaud Démare.
Although the town has never hosted a stage of the Tour de France, it has often seen it pass through, particularly in the 1930s, when the peloton cycled from Faubourg-Montmartre, the headquarters of the newspaper L'Auto, to Le Vésinet, the neighbouring town and actual start of the race. In 1938, French champion Paul Maye was hit by a motorcyclist in Chatou.
In the 1920s, the real start of Paris-Roubaix was also given from Chatou.
Island of the Impressionists
Sisley, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Manet all set up their easels here. The current Impressionist Island is in fact made up of several natural islands. At the end of the 18th century, in order to create more current and improve the efficiency of the Marly Machine, initially intended to supply water to the Palace of Versailles, a dike was built between the large island, that of the Fournaise hamlet, and the island of Chiard, where the mall is located.
While Alphonse Fournaise, a canoe manufacturer in Chatou, rented out his boats, his wife opened an inn, the Fournaise House. The Bohemian society of the 19th century escaped the well-meaning jet set of the Second Empire while Maupassant and Flaubert were seen around the islands in charming company. Painters also enjoyed the jovial atmosphere and created as much as they spent. Renoir painted about thirty pictures there, including the famous Luncheon of the Boating Party. Monet, Manet, Degas, Caillebotte, Courbet and many other happy companions also lived in this artists' den.
The Fournaise restaurant, with its pretty red shutters, remains from this splendid period. This former guinguette, which once threatened to fall into decay, is a listed historical building.
Housed in the famous 19th century guinguette, the museum presents two exhibitions a year and events for the general public and young people all year round.
Exhibitions: from January to the end of March - exhibition of the Fournaise museum collection, from May to the end of October/beginning of November - temporary exhibition to discover a specific artist or theme (Fauvism, Le Sidaner, Aux rames Canotiers, Félix Ziem).
The boat garage
In 2011, the town of Chatou received a donation of the Sequana association's collection of thirty-four boats dedicated to boating on the Seine.
This collection is currently unique in France: yawls, canoes, triplets, perissoires, skiffs, swallows and one-designs. They are kept at the Gare d'Eau (Water Station), the traditional place where boats were stored in the 19th century, and released on the occasion of the Heritage Days. They also participate in nautical gatherings and festivals.
Bessières Gallery - Contemporary Art
On 27 January 2018, the Bessières Gallery opened its doors in the historic building of the Maison Levanneur, a Mecca of Impressionism and the cradle of Fauvism (Vlaminck's and Derain's studios), whose foundation dates back to the 18th century. The Maison Levanneur is located on the Hameau Fournaise, in the Island of the Impressionnists, a stone's throw from the Fournaise Museum. Until recently, it housed the Art Prints and Publishing National Centre.
The 600 m2 of space on three floors are designed to accommodate art lovers and collectors. The Bessières Gallery has an ambitious programme of exhibitions, conferences and events.
Church of Our Lady of the Assumption
The bell tower was built in the 12th century in pure Romanesque style, and the first choir was built in the 13th century. The nave and choir were rebuilt in the 17th century. The nave was lengthened in 1861 thanks to a public subscription.
The spire of the choir was added by the architect Paul Abadie during the repairs of the church after the War of 1870-1871. The stained-glass windows date from the end of the 19th century, with the exception of the windows on the south façade, which were made in 1984 by the glassmaker Emile Chauche.
This is a garden factory or "folie", built to house a spring located in a park and visible from the island of Chatou. In the shape of an inverted shell, made of glass and millstone, it dates from 1777. The work of Jacques-Germain Soufflot (the architect of the Pantheon), it was built for Henri Bertin, lord of Chatou and minister of Louis XV and Louis XVI, at the same time as the castle destroyed in 1912.
Noyau de Poissy
It is difficult to know what the Impressionists ate at the Fournaise restaurant at the end of the 19th century – Renoir's painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party reveals only bunches of grapes, apples, pears and bottles of wine, water and digestif. The latter could well be Noyau de Poissy, produced 10 km from Chatou, in the centre of Poissy, since the late 17th century. It is a liqueur made from apricot kernels, macerated or distilled in a super-fine alcohol, in the presence, according to the recipe, of fine wine brandy, enriched with plants and subtly flavoured.
There are two varieties: Gobelet d'Argent has 25 pc alcohol, is amber in colour and offers a sweet almond fragrance pleasantly carried by a fine note of Armagnac; the Sceau de Saint Louis is a spirit with 40 pc alcohol, is transparent and expresses an elegant, powerful and very expressive fragrance of sweet almond with notes of frangipane and orange blossom
The Noyau d'Argent distillery is one of the very last artisanal distilleries in Île de France.