Beach in Pourville: Claude Monet

Beach in Pourville: Claude Monet

Beach in Pourville is an 1882 Impressionist painting by leading French artist Claude Monet.

Beach in Pourville Analysis

Titled “La plage à Pourville, soleil couchant” in his native French, Beach in Pourville is an oil painting belonging to the final period of Claude Monet’s production, a time of Monet’s renewed devotion to natural colour, distancing from the radical Impressionism of the 1870s, and wider public acclaim.

In the Beach in Pourville, we are looking at a snapshot of the rugged shoreline of Hautot-sur-Mer not far from Dieppe. In other words, the northern coast of France, facing the English Channel or La Manche.

As an en plein air creation, the Beach in Pourville is seen from an elevated perspective. Alongside Monet, we are standing on a promontory and facing one of the two directions of the winding coastline.

Sprawling nature and its seasonal lights and hues are Monet’s primary concern at this stage of his life. Less interested in human subjects, he is visiting Normandy in an inspired quest for the natural beauties of France, a country that patriots just like him have ever considered the most beautiful in the world.

The painting is naturally “read” along its horizontal axis as it is made of a succession of curvaceous layers of mild but resplendent summertime colour. If we savour its gradations left-to-right we go from a light blue further up to an aquamarine closer to the beach.

We pass over several sallow and almond hues constituting the sand and end up on the yellowish and darker greens mingling in the countryside, striated with gleaming dirt roads. Above it all, a radiant blue sky is alight and stained with regular but undeveloped clouds of white.

This succession of soft hues and rightward-pointing curves — most evident in the green wavelets in the lower register and along the borderline of water and sand — gives the fanciful impression that from the extremity of the water on the left to the innermost regions of the beach all is fluid — indeed a single, multicoloured watery expanse. The softness of shapes and the warmth of colours makes Normandy appear, in Monet’s eye, like a fairyland.

Beach in Pourville Location

Beach in Pourville is part of a series of oils on canvas created by Monet during his residence in the area in 1882. The other important creation of that series is The Cliff Walk at Pourville, another cliffside composition, in which, however, the immediate grassy surround takes centre stage rather than any natural object in the distance.

For visions of that same beach captured from different points of view, one may seek out Boats on the Beach in Pourville, Low Tide (Kreeger Museum), Foggy Morning at Pourville (Birmingham Museum of Art), which centres upon the water, and Low Tide at Pourville (Cleveland Museum of Art).

All were painted in that same summer of 1882. This two-year period in Normandy precedes his voyage to Bordighera in 1884 (Liguria, Italy) and then to the Netherlands in 1886, to paint the tulips.

In the year 2000, Beach in Pourville was at the centre of a major art theft scandal when it was reported to have been pilfered from the National Museum in Poznan, Poland, the institution which purchased it originally in 1906.

The thieves had cut the artwork out of its frame and replaced it with a fake version which was painted-on cardboard. Luckily, the painting was found in January 2010 and has been restored to the Polish National Museum.

The version of Beach in Pourville listed here is located in the National Museum, Poznań, Poland.

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