Claude Oscar Monet went through a period of extensive travel during the 1880s, looking for inspiring landscapes to portray in his impressionistic paintings and build his career as an artist. He traveled to the Mediterranean coast and many European countries. The small town of Etretat in Normandy caught Monet’s attention in early 1868, and he returned once a year between 1883 and 1886 to paint its captivating lanscapes.
In February of 1883, Monet painted twenty artworks of the scenes he encountered in the fishing village of Etretat, including The Beach and Cliffs of Amont at Etretat. This series includes many seascapes, as well as views the extraordinary rock formations. The Impressionist worked en plein air like his colleagues, meaning they rarely painted in their studio, preferring to work outdoors. This way of working enabled them to experience the natural sunlight and its effects on the landscape. Monet worked on many canvases at once, as he strived to capture the fleeting essence of the sunshine – so he had to work fast.
The oil painting The Beach and Cliffs of Amont at Etretat has a very similar composition to Boats on the Beach at Etretat. Monet used a high viewpoint of a beach with a row of boats on the sand. The light gray-blue water splashes in expressive white pigments as the waves crash. The boats vary in many colors, with white, blue, black, red, orange, and brown strips. The artist includes many small specks of paint on the sand representing people on the beach.
The painter wasn’t very concerned in perspective, as the boats on the sea seem smaller than the distance they are actually at, as well as some people on the shore. The far background shows a rock formation on the right in pigments of brown, ochre, and blue, while the left side shows the horizon and a gray-blue sky. The atmosphere is gloomy, and the color palette is cold. There are several aesthetic elements to The Beach and Cliffs of Amont at Etretat that are reminiscent of the Japanese woodcut prints that Monet was passionate about – as the other Impressionists. Monet incorporated dark contours to the boats, similar to the Japanese woodcut prints, as well as portraying the greatness of nature beside humankind.
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