Not far from Trouville Harbor, where Boudin often painted (JAMA cover, August 10, 2005), was Etretat, another in the string of
fashionable beach resorts that graced the Normandy coast during the second
half of the 19th century. The coming of the railroad had made these once-exclusive
resorts accessible to almost everyone, from the Paris bourgeoisie to the hoi
polloi wanting to escape the city’s heat. Especially attracted were
artists who were drawn to the constantly shifting light and, not least, to
the abundance of “free” motifs. Situated between Dieppe and Le
Havre, the town was of modest size, perched atop monumental cliffs that rose
steeply from the sea. Chalky white, their clearly visible geologic anatomy
could pass through all the colors of the spectrum in a single day. But it
was their shape that was distinctive: from the proper angle they looked like
an ancient Colossus straddling land and sea. Such must have been the sight
when the Romans first glimpsed Gaul. And such was the sight when Claude Monet
(1840-1926) first saw Etretat. It became a favorite and oft-repeated motif.
Southgate MT. La Manne-Porte, Etretat. JAMA. 2005;294(7):775. doi:10.1001/jama.294.7.775
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