France's greatest conribution to the history of art is the late 19C Impressionist movement
Formal, rigid Neoclassicism and idealized Romanticism rankled with some late 19th century artists.
They were interested in painting directly from nature without artistic conventions in the way, seeking to capture the fleeting impression light made when reflecting off objects.
They adopted a free, open style, deceptively loose compositions, swift visible brushwork, and often light colors, tending to concentrate on landscapes and scenes of daily life.
Artists & examples of Impresisonism in France
Manet's (1832-83) groundbreaking 1863 Picnic on the Grass and naked Olympia weren't Impressionism proper, but they helped inspire the movement with their harsh realism, visible brushstrokes, and thick outlines.
The movement officially began with an 1874 exhibition in which Monet (1840-1926) exhibited his loose, Turner-inspired Impression, Sunrise (in Paris's Musée Marmottan), which one critic picked to lambaste the whole exhibition, deriding it all as "Impressionist." Far from being insulted, the non-establishment artists in the show adopted the word for their exhibits though the 1880s.
Paris's Musée d'Orsay is the world's greatest museum of Impressionism. Here you'll find works by Renoir (1841-1919; originally a porcelain painter, which explains his figures' ivory skin and chubby pink cheeks), Sisley (1839-99; a great landscapist of heavy brush and bright colors), Pissaro (1830-1903; a Jewish-Creole landscapist who taught Cézanne, Gauguin, and Mary Cassatt and later took on Seraut's divisionnist/pointillist ideas), and Degas (1834-1917; another half-Creole who was an accomplished painter, sculptor, and draughtsman[md]his pastels are particularly memorable).
The greatest Impressionist-era sculptor–to many, the greatest since Michelangelo–was Rodin (1840-1917), whose remarkably expressive bronzes refused to idealize the human figure as had his Neoclassical predecessors. His former Paris studio is now teh Musée Rodin devoted to, among others, his Burghers of Calais, The Kiss, and The Thinker.