In 1882, from February until mid-April, Monet stayed in Pourville. Enchanted by the beautiful countryside and ‘delightful nooks and crannies’, Monet returned in the summer; this time he was accompanied by Alice Hoschedé, who went on to become his wife in 1892. In addition to Cliffs and Sailboats at Pourville, the artist produced a further seven works in 1882 capturing different aspects of this area, including: Path Through the Corn at Pourville, Beach at Pourville Sunset and Cliff Walk at Pourville.
Initially, Claude Monet’s Cliffs and Sailboats at Pourville, draws the eye into the central cluster of boats, with their brilliant white sails gleaming in the sunlight; a few perfectly placed brush strokes, effortlessly hint at the reflections of these simple crafts.
On viewing the surface of the water more closely, silhouettes of more sailboats and even a small rowing boat begin to emerge, sheltering in the shadows of the cliffs. The highlights on the waves give the sense of a bright spring or summer’s day; whilst the darker areas suggest both the changing depth of the water, and the imposing cliffs.
Looking to the beautiful blue sky, small white clouds appear to be swept across the landscape towards the right of the painting. Monet continues to immerse us in the feeling of a breezy day through the billowing sails, which catch the wind and usher the boats in the same direction as the clouds.
This is further amplified by the tilted masts and way that the bows of the sailboats appear to lift out of the water. Visible flicks of the brush depict the ripples of a slightly choppy sea that the crafts must traverse.
In contrast to the soft sky above and delicate beach beneath, Monet’s cliffs are angular and abrupt in their nature; thin, defined lines separating the edge of the vegetation from the stone are a stark contrast to the other techniques used in this artwork. Graduated slopes of greenery are followed by sharp drops and cliff edges which jut out towards the sea.
A flash of light and hint of rose among these rocks suggest a cove, only visible when the sun is in the right position. The open composition of the pastel pink beach, cliffs and sea allow the viewer to imagine what might lie beyond, and ponder where these sailboats are destined.
Claude Monet (1840–1926) was a French painter, whose work led to the late 19th-century Impressionist art movement. A radical change from the Realism that dominated in France following the 1848 Revolution, the artist’s work focused on accurate depiction of light and delivering a sense of movement.
Despite the harsh criticism that Monet endured from the conventional art community in France at the time, he still viewed his greatest achievement as having ‘painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effects'.