Special Exhibition Gallery - Impressionists by the Sea

01
of 07

The Beach at Trouville - The Empress Eugenie, 1863

© Glasgow City Council (Museums); used with permission
Eugène Boudin (French, 1824-1898). The Beach at Trouville - The Empress Eugenie, 1863. Oil on wood. 34.2 x 57.8 cm (13 7/16 x 22 3/4 in.). © Glasgow City Council (Museums)

Traveling July 7, 2007-May 11, 2008 to Three Venues


Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves. Indeed, what artist truly needs elements of human interest when the water sparkles like diamonds against peridots under an aquamarine sky in the early evening sunshine?

Included in this gallery is a selection of works from the larger exhibition organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Artists represented here include Eugène Boudin, Gustave Caillebotte, Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.


Eugène Boudin was unique - among the Impressionists and as an artist represented in this exhibition - because he was native to the Normandy coast, born to a sailor father and raised in the (then) fishing hamlet of Honfleur. The contrast of richly-clad, aristocratic travelers to his more humbly-clad, working neighbors could not have been more marked to any other artist's eye. This fascinated him, and one notes that his beach scenes are typically populated with elaborately dressed women (whose fashionable skirts, when pitted against ocean breezes, are clearly aerodynamic hindrances).

Here we see a group that includes Empress Eugénie (1826-1920), wife and consort to Napoleon III (1808-1873), who had long since gone from being President of the French Republic to Emperor of the French by the time this was painted in 1863. Can you tell which woman in this picture is the Empress? Me neither, and that seems wholly appropriate. It holds true to my own vacation experiences, wherein tourist destinations tend to blur class distinctions and offer equal opportunity fun.

About the show:

Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that had lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves.

Scheduled Venues

Royal Academy of Arts: July 7-September 30, 2007
The Phillips Collection: October 20, 2007-January 13, 2008
Wadsworth Atheneum: February 9-May 11, 2008

02
of 07

The Regatta at Sainte-Adresse, 1867

© The Metropolitan Museum of Art; used with permission
Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926). The Regatta at Sainte-Adresse, 1867. Oil on canvas. 75.2 x 101.6 cm (29 5/8 x 40 in.). Bequest of William Church Osborn, 1951. 51.30.4. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Unlike his nearly lifelong friend, the artist Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet was not born on the Normandy coast. His family moved to Le Havre before he was five years old, however, and young Monet spent his formative years roaming freely about the harbor, the nearby cliffs of Sainte-Adresse and any other out-of-doors diversion that was not the schoolroom he so disliked sitting within.

Monet had returned from Paris to Sainte-Adresse during the summer of 1867, ostensibly to visit his aunt. In reality, he'd fled to his family out of poverty and was sheltered only on the strict condition that his pregnant model/mistress, Camille Doncieux, did not accompany him. This high level of stress snapped his wires temporarily, and culminated in a mercifully short bout of hysterical blindness. All in all, it was not a banner season for Monet -- though you'd never guess it looking at the scenes he painted during his stay.

Here, for example, are nicely dressed spectators sitting on the sand watching the relatively new, elitist sport of yacht racing. It is a pleasant picture that contains but one small hint at Monet's emotional state of mind. Can you see the smaller boats with brown sails down the shoreline? They are fishing boats. Though they look somewhat inelegant amongst pleasure yachts, they'd been in the area much longer and had pre-existing rights to sail these waters. Similar comparisons between wealthy tourists and often less-so local residents are left to the viewer to draw. (Possibly only one viewer, granted, but there you have it.)

About the show:

Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that had lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves.

Scheduled Venues

Royal Academy of Arts: July 7-September 30, 2007
The Phillips Collection: October 20, 2007-January 13, 2008
Wadsworth Atheneum: February 9-May 11, 2008

03
of 07

The Sea-Arch at Etretat, 1869

© Trustees of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, The University of Birmingham; used with permission
Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877). The Sea-Arch at Etretat, 1869. Oil on canvas. 79 x 128 cm (31 1/8 x 50 3/8 in.). © The Trustees of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, The University of Birmingham


You may be asking yourself, "What's this? Gustave Courbet? In an 'Impressionist' show?" True, yes (and nice catch, you art history genius), Courbet is universally classified as a Realist. This inclusion may seem incongruous at first glance, but it is entirely justified. Consider this:

  • Courbet's working career spanned many decades - so many decades that he was contemporary to the French Impressionists.
  • His style was not wildly diverse from Impressionism.
  • His palette and subject matter were sources of inspiration for the Impressionists.
  • Classifying artists as having been "thus-and-so," while admittedly handy for we who study, is literally more art than science. It can be cheering when one slips the pigeonhole on occasion.
Courbet has here shared his view of the oft-painted arch named Porte d'Aval (sometimes aptly referred to as the "elephant" arch) and its accompanying "needle," a detached 200-foot limestone spire that rises from the sea. There are three sea arches in the cliffs around Étretat, but Porte d'Aval is far and away the favorite of artists for obvious scenic reasons. This painting shows restraint, as if Courbet felt that the geology and his color choices were drama enough. His artistic instincts were correct, yet one can definitely discern broad hints at the vivid treatment Porte d'Aval would receive from the Impressionists in years to come.

About the show:

Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that had lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves.

Scheduled Venues

Royal Academy of Arts: July 7-September 30, 2007
The Phillips Collection: October 20, 2007-January 13, 2008
Wadsworth Atheneum: February 9-May 11, 2008
04
of 07

Villers-sur-Mer, 1880

Private Collection, Photo © Greg Staley, 2006; used with permission
Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848-1894). Villers-sur-Mer, 1880. Oil on canvas. 60 x 73 cm (23 5/8 x 28 3/4 in.). Private Collection, Photo © Greg Staley, 2006


Gustave Caillebotte had come into two large inheritances in the late 1870s and was spending his summers in Trouville by this time, indulging in the dual pursuits of sailing and painting - the former occupying a much larger percentage of his time. Villers-sur-Mer is a short, southwesterly distance from Trouville on the Normandy coast, where one notes a great many towns are similarly tagged with the addendum sur Mer ("on sea").

Villers-sur-Mer is known for straddling the Greenwich Meridian at its French entrance/exit point, containing Allied safe houses during World War II, being one of the first villages liberated after the June 6, 1944 Normandy Invasion and continuing to prosper as an altogether picturesque destination. Here Caillebotte has recorded its seaside villas colorfully perched on cliffs known as the Black Cows, or Falaises des Vaches Noires, due to the large, dark rocks that had tumbled off the cliffs and on to the beach below.

Though the yellows, violets and roses shown in this picture are miles removed from the drizzly tones Caillebotte employed in his more famous rainy Parisian street scenes, his unique stamp on perspective remains constant. The angles are just the slightest bit improbable; not so much that they shout "I'm wrong!" at the viewer, but enough so that they demand attention on a subliminal level, at least. Did this treatment help or hurt in publicizing Villers-sur-Mer as a lovely vacation spot? Judging by current rates for in-season tourist lodging, it's safe to say the possibility of slightly-skewed villas was never seen as a holiday detriment.

About the show:

Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that had lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves.

Scheduled Venues

Royal Academy of Arts: July 7-September 30, 2007
The Phillips Collection: October 20, 2007-January 13, 2008
Wadsworth Atheneum: February 9-May 11, 2008

05
of 07

Shadows on the Sea. The Cliffs at Pourville, 1882

© Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen/Ole Haupt; used with permission
Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926). Shadows on the Sea. The Cliffs at Pourville, 1882. Oil on canvas. 57 x 80 cm (22 7/16 x 31 1/2 in.). MIN 1753. © Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen/Ole Haupt


Remember the wretched summer Claude Monet was having in Sainte-Adresse in 1867? Much had transpired in his life over the next fifteen years. He had gone on to marry Camille after the birth of their son, Jean, but had a rough go of it selling his work. By 1878 the financially strapped Monets and their two children (a second son, Michel, was born that same year) found themselves living communally in a house in Vétheuil with the equally money-challenged Hoschedé family -- Ernest, Alice and their six children.

But wait, there's more. After Camille Monet died in 1879, Claude and the boys continued to live with the Hoschedés. The group moved to Poissy in 1881 and, in the summer of 1882, Monet had sufficient funds to rent a cottage for them all in Pourville-sur-Mer. So here we are: three adults and eight children in a seaside abode.

This view is from west of Pourville and includes part of the village, the cliffs between it and nearby Dieppe, and the headlands stretching beyond the harbor there to the northeast. Judging by the heavy use of purple, light present at the top of the western slope and shadow coming from behind him, Monet seems to have painted this in the gathering twilight. (And confidentially, twilight sounds ideal. Dawn would have been good, too. Even a lunar eclipse at 2:57 AM was doable in this situation. No matter how much one loves to paint or lives to paint, "Au revior, teeming cottage masses, I must go and paint now!" would've been handy as an excuse for staying out of that crowded dwelling early, late and all day, every day.)

About the show:

Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that had lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves.

Scheduled Venues

Royal Academy of Arts: July 7-September 30, 2007
The Phillips Collection: October 20, 2007-January 13, 2008
Wadsworth Atheneum: February 9-May 11, 2008

06
of 07

By the Seashore, 1883

© The Metropolitan Museum of Art; used with permission
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919). By the Seashore, 1883. Oil on canvas. 92.1 x 72.4 cm (36 1/4 x 28 1/2 in.). H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929. 29.100.125. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Late in the summer of 1883, Renoir spent around a month in St. Peter Port on the island of Guernsey, admiring the rocks, cliffs and stunning view of Moulin Huet bay. He painted the starts of fifteen pictures during his stay, most of which were finished later in his Paris studio. Geography buffs will know that the Channel Island of Guernsey is not in Normandy, but sits a short distance off of the latter's coast. Both, however, share the same geology and Guernsey unquestionably fulfills the "by the sea" criterion in the exhibition title.

The arc of the sitter's dark eyebrows and saucily tilted nose in that pleasant, rosy-cheeked face are familiar to any Renoir aficionado. The woman in By the Seashore is almost certainly Aline Charigot (1859-1915), his frequent model, Significant Other (oh, all right: mistress) and the future Madame Renoir. She'd accompanied him on this particular trip, one of many that Renoir undertook at this time in his life. He was undergoing an artistic crisis, trying to reconcile the desirable elements of light and color he'd gained from Impressionism with what he perceived as its undisciplined execution.

You can clearly see this aesthetic battle being fought in Renoir's Guernsey scenes from 1883. His human figures in this series are either (1) carefully, almost Classically rendered or (2) loose to the point of abstraction. Aline here looks as realistically fetching as any young woman could through the eyes of her artist lover, and much of the rattan wrapping on her chair is equally visible. But, the background scenery! Does it ever come much more Impressionistic than this?

About the show:

Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that had lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves.

Scheduled Venues

Royal Academy of Arts: July 7-September 30, 2007
The Phillips Collection: October 20, 2007-January 13, 2008
Wadsworth Atheneum: February 9-May 11, 2008

07
of 07

Boats on the Beach, Etretat, 1885

© The Art Institute of Chicago; used with permission
Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926). Boats on the Beach, Etretat, 1885. Oil on canvas. 65 x 81.3 cm (25 5/8 x 32 in.). Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection. 1947.95. © The Art Institute of Chicago


Impressed and inspired after viewing Gustave Courbet's Sea-Arch... (1869) at that artist's 1882 Ecole des Beaux-Arts retrospective, Monet journeyed to Étretat in 1883 wondering if he had the audacity and artistic chops to tackle that which Courbet had already done so well. Whether he indeed thought he did (or not), was seduced by the scenic cliffs surrounding the village or simply decided that the growing tourist market was too potentially lucrative to ignore, Monet was back in Étretat by the summer of 1885 and painting with a vengeance.

He created a famous series of the "elephant" arch Porte d'Aval and its sea needle over those months, painting both from many angles under different lighting conditions. Here, though, Monet has taken a break to rapidly sketch fishing boats pulled above the high-water mark in the sandy beach of Étretat's half-moon bay. One almost wonders if Monet knew that he was recording this scene for posterity's sake and that this way of making a living would eventually be forced out by the local economy's growing dependence on the vacation trade. Most travelers, it must be noted, enjoy gazing at large bodies of water. They just don't necessarily want to do so near a malodorous cleaning station while screaming seagulls swirl overhead in search of fish offal.

About the show:

Impressionists by the Sea takes a wondering look back at how the northern coast of France evolved from shore communities (that had lived off of fishing and shipping for centuries) to vacation spots for Parisians at leisure during the second half of the 19th Century. The full exhibition contains 60 paintings that focus first, in the 1860s, on the well-heeled sightseers who came and played, and later, in the 1880s, on the bounty of colors and light offered by the cliffs, sand and sea themselves.

Scheduled Venues

Royal Academy of Arts: July 7-September 30, 2007
The Phillips Collection: October 20, 2007-January 13, 2008
Wadsworth Atheneum: February 9-May 11, 2008

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Esaak, Shelley. "Special Exhibition Gallery - Impressionists by the Sea." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/gallery-impressionists-by-the-sea-4123147. Esaak, Shelley. (2017, February 28). Special Exhibition Gallery - Impressionists by the Sea. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/gallery-impressionists-by-the-sea-4123147 Esaak, Shelley. "Special Exhibition Gallery - Impressionists by the Sea." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/gallery-impressionists-by-the-sea-4123147 (accessed November 20, 2017).