Yesterday, I wrote a post about a vintage illustrated dictionary I found. The little drawings pouring out from each page really captivated me. I spent a few hours making my own drawings based on the illustrations in the book. One, in particular, reminded me so much of paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926). The illustration of a bluff made me think of Monet’s series depicting the coastline of Etretat.
Etretat is a small farming and fishing town near in the Normandy region of France. It attracts tourist far and wide for the naturally formed bluffs and cliff formations. According to the Musee d’Orsey, Monet first visited this area in the winter of 1868 and returned every year between 1883-1886. Monet made countless paintings of this coastline, each showing a different time of day or weather pattern.
Etretat in the Rain by Claude Monet, 1886.
I love this series of paintings. When I find a really special place, I take endless photographs and make drawings and paintings of what I observe. There is a small trail in the woods near my home that is really special to me. This is what I base a lot of my own paintings off of, as well as a large portion of my Instagram feed. Since this type of technology wasn’t available at the time, Monet had to paint rapidly to capture the ambient light and atmosphere.
If you’ve ever painted or drawn landscapes outdoors, you know how tricky it is to capture the moment. The wind blows, a cloud passes by – whatever may happen, the environment constantly changes. The lighting may be different. Leaves will scatter about. People may enter the area. The scene is in a constant state of flux. If you sit outside and observe the same spot carefully for 15 minutes, you’ll see how rapidly that little spot will change.
Etretat, La Porte d’Aval – Boats Leaving the Harbor by Claude Monet, 1885. Image courtesy of Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon via Wikimedia Commons.
If you observe the same place at different times of day over a period of time, you’ll start to notice so much more. It’s a really extraordinary thing to see the environment change from afternoon to sunset.
Soleil Couchant a Etretat by Claude Monet, 1883. Image courtesy of El Museo de Hipatia.
Each sunset is unique and different. Look at the variation between these paintings.
Etretat at the End of the Day, Claude Monet. Image courtesy of Poul Webb.
Cliffs at Eretat by Claude Monet, 1886. Image courtesy of The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.
Sunset at Etretat by Claude Monet, 1883.
Weather patterns change the lighting and colors the eye perceives. Here is Eretat during a particularly bad storm. Look at how dark and dreary it is. You can almost feel harsh winds whipping around you.
Rough Sea at Etretat by Claude Monet, 1868. Image courtesy of Wikipaintings.
Monet painted another storm at Eretat, but this one seems less alarming. The sea seems to be more frenetic and turbulent. The brushstrokes are more pronounced, which gives the sea a really harsh feeling.
Agitated Sea at Etretat by Claude Monet, 1883. Image courtesy of MusÃ©e des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, via Wikimedia Commons.
And then, you can always observe the same place from a different vantage point. Here is another storm, from the other side of the bluff. Can you see the lone seagull?
Amont Cliff with Rough Weather by Claude Monet, c. 1886.
Eretat is a really beautiful place, and I hope to make it there some day. Until then, I’ll have to enjoy these lovely paintings by Monet.
The Cliffs at Etretat by Claude Monet, 1885. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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