Claude Monet was a French artist, famed for his impressionist landscape works of art. He painted The Cliff Walk at Pourville in 1882.
This oil on canvas painting is housed at present at the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting majestically depicts a sweeping landscape that comprises of a tall cliff top with the brooding sea depicted far below. At the very top of the cliff can be seen two women. The painting appears to show a warm and bright, summer's day.
During 1882 Monet spent a few months, up until April that year, living in Pourville, a fishing village on the edge of the coast, and it was this idyllic setting that became the inspiration for this painting. While holidaying in France, Monet had originally headed to Dieppe, but was somewhat disappointed, as the area was to built up and busy to offer any artistic vision or inspiration. That was why he decided to venture to Pourville, where he sought the tranquility of this quaint fishing village.
At this time Monet write a letter to Alice Hoschedé, who would later become his wife, stating that the scenery was beautiful and that he would love the chance to show her such beauty. Monet stayed true to his word, as it was in the summer that same year, that he retuned to Pourville with Alice. It has often been thought that the two young woman who can be observed standing on the clifftop, are indeed Alice's two daughters.
Monet's short and detailed brushstrokes can be seen in the painting of the long grasses that adorn the cliff and in the surrounding waves of the sea. The way in which the brushstrokes have been applied, also convey a sense of movement, in that the painting has been captured at that particular moment in time, but that we also glimpse the movement of the grass and the roll of the sea, before and after the snapshot was taken. We see the movement of the clouds and the wind whipping the women's hair as they observe the sea far below them.
While Monet was painting The Cliff Walk at Pourville, he went through several revisions. The first was to re size and reposition the predominant cliff in the painting, so as to better balance the composition. He then added a second, smaller cliff, that was not part of the original plan. It is also well documented, that on the first painting, Monet had added an extra figure onto the clifftop scene, but had then decided to paint over that particular individual.
What is incredibly clever about this summer landscape painting is the fact that the images of the two women, standing on the clifftop, do not detract from the stunning view, or indeed spoil the entire composition. Instead, they help to bring balance and a sense of both size and space to the painting. This blending of the women onto the canvas is done through the use of colour, lighting and texture.