Claude Monet was not the first painter to find artistic inspiration in Étretat. Throughout the 19th century, impressionist painters including Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Charles François Daubigny traveled to the small seaside fishing village to capture the landscape’s breathtaking views.
Tune in to a letter Monet wrote to his companion, Alice Hoschedé, during his first voyage to Étretat in 1883. In it, the plein-air painter expresses his intention of painting a large-scale canvas of the village’s defining cliff, the Manneport. Aware of Courbet’s recent series of paintings depicting the same landscape, Monet calls the move “audacious.” However, he promises Hoschedé that his interpretation of the view will be different and worthwhile.
This audio recording is available on the free smartphone tour of Monet at Étretat, now on view at the Seattle Art Museum. Listen to excerpts of five letters Monet wrote to Hoschedé while in Étretat, when you visit the exhibition at our downtown location, on view through October 17.
La Falaise And The Porte D’Aval, 1883
“I worked well today, I am very happy, the weather is superb if a little cold. I plan to do a large canvas of the cliff at Étretat, even if it is terribly audacious on my part to do that after Courbet did it so admirably, but I will try to do it differently. . .” February 1, 1883.
– Claude Monet
Image: La Falaise and the Porte d’Aval, 1883, Claude Monet, French, 1840–1926, oil on canvas, 23 5/8 × 31 7/8 in., Private Collection.
During his time in Étretat, as well as many other periods in his life, Claude Monet’s greatest enemy was himself. Despite the physical challenges presented by the cold winter weather in the seaside village on the Normandy Coast, the plein-air painter’s most difficult challenge to overcome was his persistent fear of a lackluster career and overall artistic failure.
In a letter written to his companion, Alice Hoschedé, while on his first sojourn in Étretat in 1883, Monet describes a series of sleepless nights when thoughts of hopelessness seemed to never end. But the discovery of a new painting location in the annex of his hotel which captures the picturesque cliffs and fishing boats lining the shore brings Monet renewed creative inspiration.
This audio recording is paired with Monet’s painting, Fishing Boats (Bateaux de pêche), on the free smartphone tour of Monet at Étretat at the Seattle Art Museum through October 17. Tune in when you visit the exhibition at our downtown location.
Fishing Boats (Bateaux de pêche), 1883
“… I am so worried that I can’t sleep anymore; tonight too, consumed with thinking about this damned exhibition, I listened to the lashing rain and felt hopeless. However, I didn’t waste my day. I was able to install myself in an annex of the hotel from which you have a superb view of the cliff and the boats. So I worked all morning from this window, regretting I hadn’t done it sooner because I would have been able to quietly create some superb things. Anyway, there are always calamities.” February 10, 1883.
– Claude Monet
Image: Fishing Boats (Bateaux de pêche), 1883, Claude Monet, French, 1840–1926, oil on canvas, 25 3/4 × 36 1/2 in., Denver Art Museum: Frederic C. Hamilton Collection, 2020.568, image courtesy of the Denver Art Museum.
Claude Monet traveled to the small fishing village of Étretat twice to paint the setting’s spectacular natural landscape. Both voyages—one in 1883 and another in 1885—took place in the winter season. Despite consistently cold weather and an unpredictable sea, Monet found these months of uninterrupted solitude and pure engagement with nature to be the most fruitful in his artistic endeavors.
Listen to excerpts of three letters Claude Monet wrote to his companion, Alice Hoschedé, while in Étretat in 1885. Written across five days, these letters express a combination of artistic inspiration and frustration. An unexpected period of good weather and the sight of local fisherman lining the shore each morning left Monet feeling both grateful for the beauty that surrounded him and raging at his inability to capture it all on his easels. With his time in Étretat soon coming to a close, Monet wondered whether he would ever be satisfied with his work.
This audio recording is part of a free smartphone tour of Monet at Étretat and accompanies the painting Boats on the Beach at Étretat, on view at the Seattle Art Museum through October 17. Take the tour when you visit the exhibition at our downtown location.
Boats on the Beach at Étretat, 1885
“. . . Etretat is becoming more and more amazing; it’s at its best now, the beach with all these fine boats, it’s superb and I rage at my inability to express it all better. You’d need to use both hands and cover hundreds of canvases.” October 20, 1885.
“For three days it’s been superb weather and I’m taking advantage of it, I can tell you; the boats are getting ready for the herring, the beach is transformed—very animated, so interesting.” October 21, 1885.
“I’ve begun quite a few things here, repetitions, in the hope of being able to work every day, but it doesn’t go quickly. It is true that with several good sessions the canvases can quickly take shape; I have returned to some canvases and I don’t really know how I will get it all.” October 24, 1885.
– Claude Monet
Image: Boats on the Beach at Étretat, 1885, oil on canvas, Claude Monet, French, 1840–1926, 26 × 32 7/16 in., Art Institute of Chicago, Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1947.95, photo: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY
While looking for inspiration in Étretat, Claude Monet faced numerous mental and physical challenges. From the gloomy weather of the winter season to constant bouts of self-doubt, Monet struggled to keep his artistic spirit alive. Amidst all these hurdles, however, the plein-air painter also found days where everything seemed to go right.
In a November 1885 letter Monet wrote to his companion, Alice Hoschedé, the artist describes a productive workday. With the sun shining above and the tide exactly right, the artist was able to make progress on several paintings. Yet Monet knew these ideal working conditions would not last long. The start of a new moon signified another impending change in the environment of the small fishing village on the Normandy Coast.
Accompanying the painting The Cliffs at Étretat, this recording is available on the free smartphone tour of Monet at Étretat, now on view at the Seattle Art Museum. Listen to this and four other letters Monet wrote to Hoschedé while in Étretat, when you visit the exhibition at our downtown location.
The Cliffs at Étretat, 1885
“Finally a good day, a superb sun . . . I was able to work without stopping, because the tide is in this moment exactly what I need for several motifs. This helped me catch up—and if I had had the chance that this weather would continue for several days, I would get a lot of work done. It’s new moon today and the barometer is going up a lot, even quickly.” November 6, 1885.
– Claude Monet
Image: The Cliffs at Étretat, 1885, Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 × 32 in., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1995.528, image courtesy Clark Institute.
. . . And save the date for fall 2022, when SAM will debut its reinstalled American art galleries following a collaborative curation process with artists, advisors, and interns. KIRO’s Graham Johnson spotlights the project, interviewing Theresa Papanikolas, SAM’s Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, and Inye Wokoma, one of the three artists taking part. It’s part of their recurring series “Western Washington Gets Real.”
Here’s Andy Chia in the UW Daily with an installment of the history/ecology series, “Between Two Pines”; he writes about several examples of public art in Seattle green spaces, including the Noguchi sculpture and the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park.
“In his posts, he included descriptions of the writing spot, its coordinates, and a little review of what the writer could expect. The UPS Waterfall Park in Pioneer Square, for instance, is loud. Some holey tables require something thick to write on. The tables in Westlake Park come with the ‘buzz of downtown’ and shade depending on the time of day. . . . However, his most popular post is a picnic table in a grove at Volunteer Park.”
“In 1976, she made her most ambitious work, a 13-foot-long painting called Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music…When it debuted in 1976 at New York’s Martha Jackson Gallery, critics were floored. Thomas herself was, too. ‘Do you see that painting?’ she once said of Red Azaleas. ‘Look at it move. That’s energy and I’m the one who put it there…I transform energy with these old limbs of mine.’”
Take a close look at Monet’s 1885 painting Fishing Boats at Étretat with Nicholas Dorman, SAM’s Jane Lang Davis Chief Conservator. Dorman shares about the canvas, the colors, and the layers of revisions that makes SAM’s single Monet painting sing. As the inspiration for the current Monet at Étretat exhibition at Seattle Art Museum, Fishing Boats at Étretat was closely examined and conserved, revealing much about the context of Monet’s artistic development at this pivotal moment in his career. Learn all about advances in paint and the cumbersome process of plein air painting in 19th-century France in this video.
One of the Monet at Étretat galleries is dedicated to Monet’s process and features an easel similar to one Monet would have used, as well as the backs of two paintings. This demonstrates the physically demanding process Monet embarked on in painting outside, and the materials available to work with at the time. The exhibition features 10 paintings created by Monet and 12 works by other artists of his era, as well as other materials addressing the artist’s engagement with the fishing village of Étretat on the Normandy Coast of France in the mid-1880s. Get your tickets today to see Monet at Étretat on view at Seattle Art Museum through October 17.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM’s Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
“When you arrive in the last gallery, SAM’s painting—“Fishing Boats at Étretat”—glows against the plum-colored walls, along with seven other Étretat paintings by Monet. It’s a glorious room, with seascapes and monumental rocks that emerged from Monet’s brush as he laid down quick strokes of the varied colors he observed in the moment.”
“Here we see the man not as the progenitor of mass-produced prettiness, but as a stalwart artist trying to both please a fickle art market and express something true about nature, atmosphere and his home environment.”
“Phillips says one of her main goals in the podcast is to ‘desegregate the arts from other essential needs’ and to frame it as something just as crucial to human life as things like housing and electricity. ‘It’s an integral part of everything we do, but we tend to segregate it and make it an add-on,’ she says.”
“It’s such a palimpsest,” Báez said, looking over the water to the downtown skyline. “Thinking of centuries of development that have happened here — what was negotiated for that to happen, what was given and what was taken?”
Red Tricycle has families and caregivers covered with this list of “Top 10 Free (or Cheap) Things to Do This Summer,” including a reminder that children 14 and under always get in free at the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Get in the mood for SAM’s summer exhibition, Monet at Étretat, with this cool teaser video that takes you to the village’s epic cliffs.
“…The AMP aims to tell the common chorus that ties the stories together — the loved ones lost, the community banding together to help and protest, the clubs where they danced their troubles away, the friends who became family.”
“On that holiday on the Normandy coast, the writer Guy de Maupassant observed Monet chasing shadows and sun, lying in wait until they shifted to suit his fancy, and said, ‘In truth, he was no longer a painter, but a hunter.’ Anyone who’s stood in line for six hours to get that gram in the Rain Room can relate.”
Crosscut’s Brangien Davis reflects on “how ‘what ifs’ become realities” in her weekly editor’s letter, exploring acts of collective imagination happening now, as well as those by Black artists and cultural workers long in the works such as Wa Na Wari, Africatown, Natasha Marin, and more.
“A cry for action from the inside out and the outside in”: The director of the Oakland Museum of Art, Lori Fogarty, writes an opinion piece for Artnet, laying out their ongoing equity efforts—social impact evaluations, board representation benchmarks, paid internships, and community collaborations—as well as “how much further [they] have to go.”
“The artifact actually stands as a metaphor,” Aaron Bryant, curator of photography and visual culture and contemporary collecting at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. In many ways, it becomes a portal by which we can connect our visitors with the story we are trying to tell.”
Learn more about Claude Monet’s mid-career painting series made during a winter spent on the coast of France with SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art & Curator of European Painting & Sculpture, Chiyo Ishikawa. Though Ishikawa is retiring this year, after 30 years with SAM, she will return for the planning of Monet of Étretat, opening May 2021.
Focused around SAM’s colorful Monet painting, Fishing Boats at Étretat, 1885, the exhibition considers the artist’s engagement with Étretat, a seaside village in Normandy known for its stunning chalk cliffs. During a difficult period in his life, Monet traveled there alone and painted over 80 works, immersing himself in the place and committing himself to the process of painting in all kinds of conditions. He went there in the off-season, interested not in the summer tourist scene but in the daily fishing activity and the timeless rock formations. SAM’s focused exhibition will feature 11 works by Monet, plus contemporaneous paintings by other artists who worked at the same site. Watch this talk and look forward to the exhibition while you stay home with SAM.
We are humbled by the generosity of our donors during this unique time. Your financial support powers SAM Blog and also sustains us until we can come together as a community and enjoy art in the galleries again. Thanks to a generous group of SAM trustees, all membership and gifts to SAM Fund will be matched up to $500,000 through June 30!
“It’s an image I’ve
seen hundreds of times—as misandrist memes across the internet, a patch on the
back of my partner’s denim jacket, to list a few iterations—but witnessing
Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith
and Holofernes in person at the Seattle Art Museum last weekend still sparked
a visceral reaction.”
Vansynghel reports on the
“badass” PNW artists who received prestigious Creative Capital
grants, including J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi.
“To him, the
preprogrammed voice trapped in a mass-market workhorse metaphorically resonated
with the life of the average Korean millennial. The ironic sadness of being
comforted by a product of a system that creates the discomfort in the first
place seemed ripe for dramatic inquiry.”
“In an election
year in which the country is bitterly divided between those for and against
President Donald Trump, and over who is welcome to immigrate and become a
citizen, it seems likely to resonate.”
As National Poetry Month comes to a close, if you’re not sure what to read, visit the library inside of the exhibition Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, closing May 13. While there you’ll notice a book of poetry by Morgan Parker titled There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House, 2017). It’s a recent favorite read of this particular copywriter and the cover of the first edition (now sold out) featured a Mickalene Thomas artwork. More importantly, within the pages of this smart, irreverent, and deeply personal collection of poetry is a piece inspired by Thomas, reprinted below! Morgan Parker simultaneously brings great depth to listening to Drake and immense weight to racial discrimination as she fearlessly invokes generations of social injustices within her powerful and playful prose. Parker stopped by the exhibition while visiting Seattle and shared some thoughts on Figuring History as well!
We Don’t Know When We Were Opened (Or, The Origin of the Universe) after Mickalene Thomas
By Morgan Parker
A sip of liquor from a creek. Saturday syndicated
Good Times, bare legs, colors draped like
an afterthought. We bright enough to blind you.
Dear anyone, dear high-heel metronome, white
noise, hush us, shhhhh, hush us. We’re artisinal
crafts, rare gems, bed of leafy bush you call
us superfood. Jeweled lips, we’re rich
We’re everyone. We have ideas and vaginas,
history and clothes and a mother. Portrait-ready
American blues. Palm trees and back issues
of JET, pink lotion, gin on ice, zebras, fig lipstick.
One day we learned to migrate. One day we studied
Mamma making her face. Bright new brown, scent of Nana
and cinnamon. Shadows of husbands and vineyards,
records curated to our allure, incense, unconcern.
Champagne is how the Xanax goes down, royal blue
reigning. We’re begging anyone not to forget
we’re turned on with control. We better homes and gardens.
We real grown. We garden of soiled panties.
We low hum of satisfaction. We is is is is is is is is
touch, touch, shine, a little taste. You’re gonna
give us the love we need.
SAM: Reading We Don’t Know When We Were Opened there’s a lot of assonance that creates repetition and fragmentation that feels to me like a sonic equivalent to Mickalene’s visual fragmentation. What in Thomas’ work inspired you and this poem, formally or thematically?
Morgan Parker: I’ve always loved Mickalene’s work, for the glitter and the color and the attention and the audaciousness. Her work is a celebration, and it’s also a politically intentional decolonization of the art history canon. She builds new worlds and revels in those worlds. I wanted my poem to reflect her work and add to it, translate it in my own words.
How do you think the persona poem and the way that Mickalene Thomas casts her models as art historical figures and tropes relate? Mickalene’s figures are looking right at you and this alters their role—makes them dimensional, such as in a painting like Tamika sur une chaise longue avec Monet. Where do you think that same dimension lives persona poems?
God I love this painting. I like to think of all my first-person poems as playing with dimensionality. I’m interested in using the singular figure, or voice, to call up cultural figureheads and historical tropes. Persona poems are an extension of that—they have two first-person speakers.
What stuck with you from your visit to the exhibition? Any lingering or new thoughts?
Kerry James Marshall’s Souvenir I always makes me cry. It was also fantastic to see Robert Colescott’s work in person, as I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I love the way it engages stereotypes and recasts history so playfully and comically. In a different way than Mickalene, there’s trickery in acknowledging the audience’s gaze—that’s something I’ll be thinking over for a while.
Morgan Parker is the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé and Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night. In 2019, a third collection of poems, Magical Negro, will be published by Tin House, and a young adult novel will be published with Delacorte Press. Her debut book of nonfiction will be released in 2020 by OneWorld. Parker is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, winner of a Pushcart Prize, and a Cave Canem graduate fellow. She is the creator and host of Reparations, Live! at the Ace Hotel. With Tommy Pico, she co-curates the Poets with Attitude (PWA) reading series, and with Angel Nafis, she is The Other Black Girl Collective. She lives in Los Angeles.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
As the founder of Early Masters, a Seattle-based art school, I’m always searching for ways to connect children to art history and get them truly excited about artists, artwork, and the museums in which artworks reside. Since 2011, a highlight of our programming has been our community partnership with SAM and our student exhibitions in Seattle Art Museum’s Community Corridor Art Gallery.
For several months, our young artists (ages 7–15) prepare for their opening at SAM through visual presentations, music, conversation, and of course painting. They become familiar with artists through studying their technique and style, what inspired them, and what their world was like.
Our seventh student show, currently hanging, is inspired by SAM’s exhibition, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection. Our budding artists never seem to tire of Monet and his magical home at Giverny or Cézanne and his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire, and they created over 200 paintings inspired by the art in the exhibition. Students loved interpreting works of artists such as Manet and Seurat and often found some techniques more mysterious than others. Comments such as, “I’m getting cross-eyed, how did Seurat do it?” or “I could do dots all day!” were often heard (along with a lot of laughter) around the studio. I’m always amazed at the fearlessness of our young students, and how a blank canvas never seems daunting. In fact, it’s always a welcome challenge.
Our students were thrilled at the chance to examine the paintings in Seeing Nature after having studied them for months. They were surprised by the actual size of the works, the colors, or the thickness of the paint on the original works of art. One thing is for sure, they all feel a sense of ownership and connection to the paintings they studied. They will never forget Klimt’s Birch Trees, or Monet’s Waterlilies, and they certainly won’t forget having their own artwork on display at SAM.
Being part of the Community Corridor Art Gallery is an incredible experience—not just for our young artists, but for the families and friends who come see the artwork and experience the pride of having the work celebrated at SAM.
– Shelley Thomas, Founder, Early Masters
The Early Masters Student Exhibition is on view through March 26, 2017 in the Community Corridor Art Gallery. Stop by to see work by these young artists for free through Sunday!