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Title La Falaise à Fécamp
Collection Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Artist Monet, Claude (French painter, 1840-1926)
Date 1881 (dated)
Signed yes
Description Monet's distinctive, and apparently rapid, treatment of sea and sky, with choppy waves and scudding clouds set against a luminous sky, gives a very real sense of the breezy Spring day. Vibrant blues, greens and yellows give joyous and brave colour to this magnificent scene, and in this daring modernity it is possible to see how far Monet has come since his traditional interpretations of the Normandy coast of fifteen years earlier.
Current Accession Number ABDAG003046
Former Accession Number 27.15
Inscription front lr 'Claude Monet 81'
Subject landscape; marine
Measurements 65.0 x 81.1 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased 1927 through Wallis & Son, with half the purchase price met by Sir James Murray.
Provenance Madame Choquat sale, Paris, 1899, lot 80; purchased by L. H. Lefevre, 17 March 1924, stock no. J1003, £744 7s + 10%; purchased by Sir James Murray, 9 November 1925, £1200.
Principal Exhibitions London, Tate Gallery, 1926; The Spirit of France, Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery, 1943, cat. no. 41; United Nations International Art, Edinburgh, 1951; London, Royal Academy, 1973; Monet, Madrid, Museo Espanol De Arte Contemporaneo, 1986, cat. no. 32; Collecting Impressionism: Impressionist Paintings From European Museums, High Museum Of Art, Atlanta, 1999, Seattle Art Museum, 1999, Denver Art Museum, 1999; A Scottish Collection - Treasures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Nagasaki (touring), 2000-2001, cat. no. 50; Monet - The Seine and the Sea, Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, National Gallery of Scotland exhibition, 2003; Boudin, Monet and the Sea Painters of Normandy, Barnard Castle, Bowes Museum, 2004.
Publications Lefevre Glasgow stockbook, 1924-28; Catalogue of Christie's sale - Sir James Murray's collection, 29 April 1927, p. 17; . Wilenski, R. H., French Paintings, p. 249; Aberdeen Art Gallery Catalogue, 1937, pl. 34; Royal Academy of Arts, 1974; Illustrated London News,1974; Catalogue For Monet Exhibition In Madrid, 1986, p. 257; House, J., Monet, Yale University Press, 1986; Pavet, M., Catalogue Raisonné de Monet, Wildenstein Institute 96, p, 248, cat. no. 56, cat. no. 35; Bergeret, A., Monet - La Normandie, Editions Herscher, Paris, 1997; Wildenstein, D., Catalogue Raisonne, Paris, 1998; Melville, J., 'Claude Monet', Impressionism: Paintings Collected by European Museums, Atlanta, 1999, pp. 172-3; Aberdeen Art Gallery and Japan Association of Art Museums, A Scottish Collection-Treaures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Tokyo, 2000, inside back flap jacket and pp. 144-145, cat. no. 50; French Connections, Aberdeen, 2001; Clarke, M., and Thomson, R., Monet - The Seine and the Sea, cat. no. 37, Edinburgh, 2003, p.98.; Barker, A., Boudin, Monet and the Sea Painters of Normandy, Barnard Castle, 2004, p. 24.

By far the most popular of the French Impressionists, Claude Monet was born in Paris in 1840 but as a child went to live in Le Havre. There he met Eugène-Louis Boudin (see cat. no. 33), who persuaded him to take up landscape painting. Monet shared Boudin's love of the Normandy coastline, and throughout his lifetime he returned to this part of France to paint its dramatic cliffs and seascapes.

This painting is an early example of Monet's sequence of cliff-paintings of Grainval, just to the south of Fécamp in Normandy. Monet knew this particular area well, having holidayed there as a child. From 9 March to 10 April 1881, he had been at work, studying the different effects that the Spring weather made to the varied shapes of these chalk cliffs between Le Havre and Dieppe, and delighting in their anthropomorphic shapes.(For a discussion of this aspect of Monet's cliff paintings see R. L. Herbert, Monet and the Normandy Coast, Yale University Press, 1994.) Here he has chosen a viewpoint where the far cliff, to the east of Fécamp, juts out from behind the principal shapes. In other works of the series a human presence in suggested by boats, buildings and sometimes a path but here no trace of human life is allowed to reduce the immensity and monumentality of the cliffs. By taking a slightly different viewpoint from some of his other paintings (moving slightly to the right), Monet abandons all such indications. The cliffs in the foreground now block much of Cap Fagnet, and obscure completely the church of Notre-Dame du Salut, which flanks the harbour of Fécamp. In so doing Monet increases the viewer's sense of vertigo when viewing the painting - the scene is somehow ambiguous and apparently vertiginous.

The composition is severely simple, the canvas divided to the left by the horizon and to the right by three consecutive cliffs that together form a strong diagonal. This strongly asymmetrical composition is redolent of Monet's interest in Japanese prints, which had transformed his art and his depiction of the French landscape.

Rights Owner Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Author Jennifer Melville



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