COURBET, Gustave
(b. 1819, Ornans, d. 1877, La Tour-de-Peilz)

Cliffs at Étretat

Oil on canvas, 66 x 82 cm
Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Courbet's marine scenes were often painted at Étretat, a Norman fishing village popular among artists of his generation and, later, the Impressionists. Its great cliffs, rising so precipitously from the beach and from the waters provided a striking contrast to sand-bound or storm-tossed boats below, and with the ever-changing sea and sky. Courbet painted many views of this site in the late 1860s and early 1870s. This painting stress a rock formation known as Aval or Aiouille, where a natural flying buttress appears to support an equally natural, crenellated tower. This sense of implicit architecture suggests a great city lost in primeval times.