Eglise de Varengeville, Effet Matinale

Claude Monet: Then and Now (Summertime on the Normandy Coast)

With its distinctive cliff- faces, pretty villages and splendid beaches, the Normandy coastline has been immortalised by the paintings of Monet and other impressionists.

Early in February 1882, Monet returned to the Channel. He found the area around Dieppe too urban and settled on Pourville. He painted there for seven weeks. Enjoying the coast, he returned for the summer, encouraged by how well his marine paintings had been received earlier that year in March, at the 7th Impressionist exhibition. His marine output for that year would total over 90 paintings!

The beach and the coast still look today much as they did in 1882. We took this photograph, it compares well to Monet’s own version.

The Chemin Dans Les Bles A Pourville

Claude Monet – The Chemin Dans Les Bles A Pourville (Then and now)

He also travelled west to Varengeville-sur-Mer, tourist guidebooks were already highlighting the cliff top views and the mariners’ church perched high on the cliffs had captured his eye.

To get to the beach at Varengeville, there is a gap in the huge chalk cliff. This alleyway that leads to the sea also gave Monet inspiration to paint. The sea appears to pour into the painting as we look out towards England. On our visit the winding path is still virtually identical as the fisherman walked to the beach in the 1882 work “Le Chemin du Petit Ailly a Varengeville” sold earlier this year in the gallery.

Le Chemin du Petit Ailly a Varengeville

Claude Monet – Le Chemin du Petit Ailly a Varengeville (Then and now)

Monet liked the stone cabins that had been built during the Napoleonic era, as posts from which to observe coastal traffic. In Monet’s day they were used by fisherman to store nets. He had a key to one in which he used to keep easels and materials for his painting. In the painting “Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville” 1882 – now in the Museum of Fine Art in Boston – the charming simplicity of the cottage with its bright orange roof vibrant against the sparkling blue sea.

The one near the Church has slid into the sea, with the cliff, since the nineteenth century. The French have reinterpreted it in a lively way with a wooden cabin. Resembling a pergola, it made a shaded spot so you can sit once more and watch the sea.

Fisherman's Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville

Claude Monet – Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville (Then and now)

Monet revisited the coastline at the end of the 1880’s and the cottage and church he captured in our painting “Sur la Falaises, au Petit Ailly“. This broad work captures them in vibrant purple hues at the top and bottom of the painting as he surges along the coast line with paint and colour.

The church of Saint Valery was built in the 12th Century and extended in the 16th century has always been associated with the sea. Generations of local fisherman are buried in the churchyard and symbols of the sea, such as scallop shells, decorate the stone pillars inside. The blue light inside shines from Georges Braque’s stained glass window of the Tree of Jesse. Braque was a contemporary of Picasso and a co-innovator of cubism. He died in 1963 and is buried in the churchyard.

In “Eglise de Varengeville, Effet Matinale” Monet reveals in colourful, summer light, the massive rise of the cliffs and the tiny, almost fragile church nestled atop, amongst the trees and gardens of the village.

The cliffs as seen in the painting are streaks of bright yellows, greens, pinks and reds, heightened, one might think. But standing on the beach, looking up at these gargantuan, looming walls of chalk, you see these colours in certain light, the streaking effect created by the water running down from the soil above, each of the little streams bringing with them red and yellow clay. The tide travels out a long way so Monet may have painted from the beach. We think that he probably used a boat as we found the tide also comes in very rapidly!

Eglise de Varengeville, Effet Matinale

Claude Monet – Eglise de Varengeville, Effet Matinale (Then and now)

We hope that visitors to Fine Art Asia in Hong Kong are enjoying the painting as much as we did finding out where it was painted.


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