Lot 10
  • 10

Claude Monet

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 GBP
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  • Claude Monet
  • Etretat, falaise et Porte d'Amont, grosse mer
  • signed Claude Monet (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 65 by 81cm.
  • 25 5/8 by 31 7/8 in.


J. Eastman Chase, Boston

Sale: American Art Association, New York, 25th February 1920, lot 147

Holland Galleries, New York (purchased at the above sale)

Felix Isman, New York (acquired by 1937)

Mr & Mrs William Ginsberg, Rowayton, Connecticut (sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 20th November 1968, lot 29)

Peter Findlay Gallery, New York (purchased at the above sale)

Galerie Motte, Geneva

Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners in 1970


Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet. Bibliographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, vol. II, no. 827, illustrated p. 103

Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, no. 827, illustrated p. 307

Monet, I luoghi della pittura (exhibition catalogue), Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso, 2001-02, illustrated p. 328


The canvas is lined. There is a small spot of retouching in the centre of the extreme upper edge and a small spot of retouching by the right edge, visible under ultra-violet light. Apart from a faint vertical stretcher mark, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although brighter and more varied in the original. The green tones in the water are more pronounced in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Etretat, falaise et Porte d’Amont, grosse mer, painted in 1883, is one of Monet’s vivid depictions of the Normandy coast. The towering cliff face and agitated sea are depicted in bright tones, energetically applied in swift, flickering brushstrokes, while the brilliant blue sky casts the unmistakable form of the Porte d’Amont into relief. During the period in which the present work was created Monet was enraptured by the cliffs at Etretat, depicting them from numerous angles and in varying weather conditions (fig. 1). Discussing this important body of work, Paul Hayes Tucker has noted that: ‘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 part of the Normandy coast, with its stunning natural features such as the cliffs the Porte d'Amont, the Porte d’Aval and its companion the Aiguille, 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 eschewed the staid 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. The novelist Guy de Maupassant, who was a native of the region and was well acquainted with his generation’s leading artists, described the quality of light as the crucial advantage of the Norman coastline: ‘I have seen so many other painters pass through this little valley, doubtless drawn to the quality of light, so unlike anywhere else! The daylight is as different to places just a few leagues away as the wines of the Bordelais. For here it is dazzling without being harsh; everything is bright but not startling and all imbued with a remarkable subtlety’ (G. de Maupassant, ‘La Vie d’un paysagiste’, in Gil Blas, 28th September 1886, translated from French).

Monet’s first visit to Etretat was during the winter of 1868-69, when he completed a few canvases, mostly of the fishing boats out at sea. In 1883 he returned to the Norman coast, initially to Le Havre and then to Etretat where he stayed for three weeks. The views of the spectacular cliff formations of chalk arches and flying buttresses between Dieppe and Le Havre inspired at least eighteen canvases. In the late 1860s Courbet had painted a number of works with marine subjects, the composition of one of these (fig. 2) established the perspective employed in many paintings subsequently produced by Monet. As Richard R. Brettell states, in these works of Normandy there is a ‘clear debt to Courbet and their concomitant fascination with the almost mythic natural landscape of the north coast. [...] The viewer, like Monet himself, is most often alone - walking on the beaches, clinging to the cliffs, staring at the waves that crash against the coast of France itself’ (R. R. Brettell, Monet in Normandy (exhibition catalogue), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2006, p. 46). 

During the 1880s Monet's main pictorial emphasis grew to encompass more natural themes than the social ones which concerned his earlier works. Previously, Monet’s 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 by and large Monet had  removed these humdrum elements, preferring to paint uninhabited views of the magnificent coastline. The scholar Robert L. Herbert has written: ‘In these pictures we are brought extremely close to the cliffs in unusual compositions intended to make us feel small and powerless in front of awesome nature. [The paintings] could suit the words of Jacob Venedey, when he climbed the Aval in 1837: "yawning gulphs open at our feet, out of which the agitated sea sends up tones like the voice of a bard singing the destruction of his race." Monet's rocks have an overpowering presence by virtue of their writhing mass, and by a stronger contrast of colour: his dark blues and purples stand out against the yellowish sunset. If we stare at his picture for a few moments, its rhythms force our eye upward, and then we sense the fragility of these delicately curved masses that seem almost to tremble against the evening sky, threatening us with their potential of collapse’ (R. L. Herbert, Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867-1886, New Haven & London, 1994, pp. 108-110 & 127).