Monet’s Letters: Fishing Boats (Bateaux De Pêche)

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.

Monet’s Letters: Boats on the Beach at Étretat

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

Monet’s Letters: The Cliffs at Étretat

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 Étretatnow 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.

Muse/News: Inclusive Art, Writing Spots, and Alma’s Energy

SAM News

Monet at Étretat is still on Seattle Met’s list of “things to do in Seattle.” Get your tickets now!

. . . 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.”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Meghan Burbank reports on the recent arts forum featuring many of the mayoral candidates for the city outlining their platforms for the culture sector.

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 one of her last stories for the Stranger (what a loss!), Nathalie Graham writes about The Seattle Twitter Account Realizing the Dream of the Perfect Writing Spot.”

“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.”

Inter/National News

The Strange Joy of Watching the Police Drop a Picasso”: Sophie Haigney in the New York Times Magazine.

“Curator and Museum Trustee Isolde Brielmaier Has Been Named Deputy Director at the New Museum,” reports Artnet’s Eileen Kinsella.

ARTnews’ Alex Greenberger on Alma Thomas, whose vibrant abstractions are on view in a new traveling survey.

“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.’”

And Finally

“Scary. Really, really, really scary. Did I mention it was scary?”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Stephanie Fink

Conservation & Color: Monet’s Fishing Boats at Étretat

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

Muse/News: “Glorious” Monet, a Seattle Arts Podcast, and Visions of Firelei Báez

SAM News

Monet at Étretat has docked at the Seattle Art Museum! Seattle Met, Seattle PI, and Curiocity all recommend the exhibition that tells the story of Claude Monet’s journeys to the fishing village. 

Curator Chiyo Ishikawa appeared on Evening Magazine for a sneak peek at the show’s luminous paintings. She also spoke with Gayle Clemans for her review of the show in the Seattle Times and with Crosscut’s Brangien Davis for her weekly ArtSEA letter.

“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.”

Local News

Roxanne Ray for the International Examiner on Tacoma Method, a new opera about the 1885 violent expulsion of Chinese people from Tacoma composed by Gregory Youtz with libretto by Zhang Er.

“What the reception to Seattle’s greatest film can tell us about the city’s on-going homelessness crisis”: Here’s Andrew Hedden for Real Change on the 1984 documentary Streetwise.

Former KUOW arts reporter Marcie Sillman and beloved arts advocate Vivian Phillips have launched a podcast called “DoubleXposure,” reports Jade Yamazaki Stewart for the Seattle Times.

“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.”

Inter/National News

Artnet takes you inside the studios of 17 artists, asking about their most essential tools for creation.

After the deadly June 24 collapse of a condominium in Surfside, Florida, a wave of support has arrived. Hyperallergic’s Valentina Di Liscia reports on “a new art fundraiser [that] will help the victims and families impacted by the tragedy.”

Siddhartha Mitter for the New York Times on a new installation by Firelei Báez at the Institute of Contemporary Art Watershed in Boston; one component is a massive sculpture that imagines Haiti’s San-Souci palace emerging from the Atlantic Ocean.

“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?”

And Finally

Rick Steves on “traveling in a reopened world.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: La Falaise d’Aval, 1885, Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926, oil on canvas, 25 9/16 × 31 7/8 in., Hasso Plattner Collection

Muse/News: Kids are Free, a Memorial Chorus, and Monet the Influencer

SAM News

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.

They also recommend the free-to-all Olympic Sculpture Park, as does Curiocity with their list of “13 of the absolute best beaches you can find in and around Seattle.”

Local News

This Saturday is Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the US. The Northwest African American Museum is hosting nine days of events, kicking off on June 15. Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne has a great overview of their plans and other celebrations happening around the city.

Paul Constant for Crosscut on We Hereby Refuse, a new nonfiction comic by local writers and artists exploring Japanese American resistance to internment.

The Seattle Times on Capitol Hill’s AIDS Memorial Pathway (AMP), which will be dedicated on June 26 as one of the few memorials honoring those lost to and impacted by the AIDS epidemic. Take your time with the feature story by Crystal Paul and photos & video by Erika Schultz and Ramon Dompor.

“…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.”

Inter/National News

For the first time, the family of Jean-Michel Basquiat will organize an exhibition of the late artist’s works, including rarely seen examples from their private collection, reports Artnet’s Sarah Cascone.

“Storied New York arts nonprofit the Kitchen has appointed Legacy Russell executive director and chief curator,” reports Artforum.

For Hyperallergic, Chandra Steele tests out a theory: Monet is the granddaddy of all Insta girls.”

“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.”

And Finally

Explore the work of the 105th class of Pulitzer Prize winners.

– Rachel Eggers, Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Jueqian Fang

Muse/News: Curator Journeys, Black Imagination, and A Cry for Action

SAM News

Last week, Stay Home with SAM visited the town of Étretat with Monet and SAM curator Chiyo Ishikawa and made poetry inspired by a Ming dynasty calligraphy painting.

Local News

Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reports on a long-planned redevelopment now steadily moving ahead in the wake of the protests: The Fire Station 6 property at 23rd Ave and Yesler is slated to become the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation, a project led by Africatown. King County Equity Now Coalition on Monday called for specific next steps.

The Seattle Times has started a new series, The Future of Policing, “an examination of what that future could look like and the hurdles ahead.” Here, Nina Shapiro talks to community leaders and their views on the reimagining of public safety.

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.

Inter/National News

“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.”

Billy Anania for Hyperallergic points you to a viewable archive of the Los Angeles Free Press (1964–1978), which covered police violence and racial inequality with always-compelling design.

Museums across the country are collecting artifacts from the recent protests as they’re happening, reports Artnet’s Sarah Cascone, ensuring this historical moment can be further taught and explored.

“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.”

And Finally

No end in sight.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Fishing Boats at Étretat, 1885, Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 in. Partial and promised gift of an anonymous donor, 92.88.

Virtual Art Talks: Monet at Étretat with Chiyo Ishikawa

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.

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