- Claude Monet
- traces of stamp with the artist's signature Claude Monet (lower right); stamped with the artist's signature Claude Monet (on the reverse)
- oil on canvas
- 54,3 x 65,3 cm; 21 3/8 x 25 3/4 in.
Katia Granoff, Paris
Private collection, Europe (acquired from the above)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Paris, 1991, vol. V, no. 774
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1996, no. 774, illustrated p. 289
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This beautiful seascape is part of a cycle of works representative of Claude Monet's revived interest in the landscapes of Normandy and the English Channel from the early to the mid-1880s. This part of the Normandy coast, with its stunning natural features had been popular with writers and painters of the preceding generation, including Delacroix, Corot, Boudin and Courbet, the latter of whom exerted a strong influence of Monet's work. These pioneering painters, whose compositions avoided the classicism of the Italianate style which predominated at the beginning of the nineteenth century, found Normandy to hold numerous advantages. Whilst near enough to Paris for convenient travel and trade, the cost of living remained low, and it was endowed with an idyllic countryside encircled by a coastline of majestic beauty. About Monet and Normandy, Paul Hayes Tucker noted: "Without doubt his favourite site during the 1880s was the Normandy coast; it obviously was in his blood from his childhood in Le Havre and Sainte-Adresse and was easily accessible from Vétheuil and later from Giverny where he moved in 1883. Of all the places he visited on the coast, several became his most frequented - Pourville, Varengeville, Etretat, and Dieppe. Their appeal lay primarily in their dramatic cliffs and stretches of beach, their simplicity, starkness, and past history" (P. H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven & London, 1995, p. 107).
This seascape is one of the works that Monet painted in 1882 along the coast of Normandy as his main pictorial emphasis grew to encompass more natural themes rather than the sites and activities of urban and suburban Paris. Many of Monet's previous depictions of the Normandy coastline were populated by the bourgeoisie at leisure or bucolically presented peasants, elements of which still lingered in a few canvases painted in 1883, but, as is the case in the present work, by and large Monet removes these elements, preferring to paint uninhabited views of the magnificent coastline. The present work shows Monet's interest in experimenting with unique viewpoints, with the placement of the horizon line, and creating compositions that radically challenged the established spatial conventions of traditional 19th century landscape painting. Its wide expanses of sea and sky and the simplicity and starkness of nature appealed to the artist's fascination with space, as well as with the reflection of light on the pure elements of earth, water and sky.
Richard Thomson has argued that Monet highlighted the natural grandeur and power of land, sea, and sky, thereby producing a "modern sublime." (in, Michael Clarke and Richard Thomson, Monet: The Seine and the Sea, 1878–1883, National Galleries of Scotland, 2003, pp. 28–29.) Clearly, Monet's paintings of the Normandy coast where influenced by William Turner. In fact, at the end of 1870, Claude Monet had moved to London to escape the Franco-Prussian war. There he was able to see first-hand the paintings that the artist had bequeathed to the National Gallery.
Monet's seascapes of the 1880's transformed the merely picturesque into a sort of modern sublime. While never entirely leaving the motif the impressionist master nonetheless opened up new aesthetic possibilities without which the greatest abstract paintings of the next century would not have been possible.