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Cliff at Étretat, the Porte d' Aval

Cliff at Étretat, the Porte d' Aval, 1869

Gustave Courbet
French, 1819-1877
Oil on canvas
25-3/4 x 32 in. (65.4 x 81.3 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

The extension of a railway line from Paris via Le Havre brought tourism to the tiny fishing village of Étretat in the 1850s. Writers and artists soon flocked to the town, its picturesque half-mile of beach, and its striking rock formations. Guy de Maupassant, Jacques Offenbach, Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin, and Claude Monet all spent time there, but none conjured its crumbled cliff faces and chill, frothy sea more effectively than Courbet, who spent five weeks in an Étretat cottage during the fall of 1869. His rugged method of paint application—using a palette knife as often as a brush—was ideally suited to the rough topography and lonely aspect of the place.

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