Plage en Normandie (c.1872-1875)

Courbet, Gustave (1819-1877)

Plage en Normandie (Beach in Normandy)
Oil on canvas, 61.3 x 90.2 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

Towering, sheer cliffs loom to our left, over a sunny beach scattered with boats in this horizontal landscape painting. The chalky, rugged faces of the cliffs are dappled and streaked with olive green, dark brown, gray, rust red, and mustard yellow. The horizon comes a third of the way up the composition so the cliffs are outlined against the powder-blue sky, which is loosely veiled with wispy, cream-white clouds. The mossy tops of the cliffs are illuminated by sunlight from the upper left, and a solitary leafy tree leans into view between the two cliff-tops closest to us. Four empty, wooden boats sit on the flat, sandy beach below. We look onto the long sides of the two closest to us. One is stripped and appears dilapidated, while the one behind it has a ginger-brown sail attached to the mast in the prow. Two more wooden poles or oars jut out from the cockpit on either side of the mast. A small flag with horizontal bands of blue, white, and red flies from a short pole near the middle of the boat. A bundle the same color as the unfurled sail sits in the boat. Another sail is spread out on the sand to our right, and coiled ropes lie nearby. The two other boats are slightly further back on the right, with one angled to our left while we view the other straight on. There are two people a short distance beyond these boats. One faces our left in profile while the other sits on the sand looking toward the water. Thin trails of white delineate the low surf and a few sailboats drift by on the brilliant blue water. The artist signed the lower left, “G. Courbet.” (NGA)

See also:

• Normandie (France)