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The Cliffs at Etretat

Painting, 1886, 61×80 cm
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Description of the artwork «The Cliffs at Etretat»

Claude Monet got ready for the motifs quickly, either because it was unbearable for him to stay in one place for too long or because he quarreled with his family. He packed his bags, got on the train and moved towards new impressions. Étretat is a commune on the Norman coast, not far from the Port of Le Havre, where Claude spent his childhood and where he liked to hide from all his troubles.

Many years ago, in summer and autumn, Monet visited this place together with his wife Camille and their newly born son Jean. Then he fought with the waves and the cliffs of Etretat in the winter of 1883. In February 1886, he settled in the hotel right by the sea again. The weather prevented him from working for long. When rains and winds subsided, Monet got ready for one of the most extreme plein air painting in his life: he walked on rocks through caves or sailed on a fishing boat through narrow tunnels in the rocks. The artist paid the local boys, so they helped him to carry his equipment and canvases to the West beach, which offered the best view of the Etretat cliffs. At the same time, Guy de Maupassant lived in Étretat and met with Monet. A few months later, in Paris, he published a newspaper article about Monet's work: "And the painter waited... lay in wait for the lights and shadows, gathered in a few strokes of the brush the falling ray or the passing cloud, and, disdainful of the false and the conventional, put them down upon the canvas with rapidity. I saw him seize a sparkling downpour of light on the white cliff and fix it in a shower of yellow tones, which made the effect of this fleeting and blinding marvel seem strangely astonishing. Another time he took by handfuls a rainstorm beating down upon the sea and threw it upon the canvas. And it was truly rain that he painted this way, nothing but rain obscuring the waves, the rocks and the sky, scarcely distinct beneath this deluge..."

On the Norman coast it is cold, damp and windy in winter, so getting close to the rocks is only possible during low tide. And his plein air painting turned into a battle with nature. One day Monet was so fascinated by his work that he completely forgot about the approaching tide. It washed his canvases, paints and brushes, the artist got wet and barely managed it to the hotel on the icy water. But during this winter journey, it was not the weather which led him to despair but his drowned paints. Monet fled to Etretat from Alice, with whom he had lived for so many years and who finally got tired with the neighbours’ whispering behind her back. She wanted to have a real and right relationship. Every day Monet wrote her letters begging not to leave him.
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Landscape

Style of art: Impressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1886

Size: 61×80 cm

Artwork in selections: 22 selections

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