At the end of the 19th century Grez-sur-Loing was a buzzing artists’ community. Many artists stayed and worked in this small village, 70 kilometres south of Paris. First to arrive were the Americans, English, Scots and Irish. During the 1880s most of the artists were Scandinavians and just before the turn of the century the Japanese arrived to found the Japanese impressionist movement at Grez.
At that time there were two pensions at Grez-sur-Loing: Hôtel Chevillon and Hôtel Laurent. Both were situated on the main street in walled gardens facing the river. This is where the Swedish artists stayed. Many of the Scandinavians who came here in the 1880s became prominent artists and authors. Most prominent was Carl Larsson, both as a painter of watercolours and as an organiser of the social life at both pensions.
August Strindberg stayed at Grez for long periods. Robert Louis Stevenson and the Finnish sculptor Ville Vallgren came here as well as many of the Danish and Norwegian painters that were later to be made famous through the “Skagen” school. Most of the artists were Swedish including Julia Beck, Karin Bergöö, Oscar Björck, Eva Bonnier, Ernst Lundström, Emma Löwstedt, Karl Nordström and Georg Pauli. Verner von Heidenstam, Bruno Liljefors and Anders Zorn made brief visits to the colony.
Today, we can see and admire the landscape captured on the banks of the Loing and in the pension gardens at, for example, the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm and at Göteborgs Konstmuseum. We can read about Grez-sur-Loing of the 1880s in Strindberg’s Bland franska bönder (Among French peasants). Grez-sur-Loing is no longer a farming community, but to the modern visitor this small village has the unmistakable charm of the late 18th and early 19th century French countryside.