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.
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