One of Monet’s most favored sites in the 1880s was the Normandy Coast, with its dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, simplicity, starkness and space.  When he discovered the quiet village of Pourville, where the present work was painted, Monet wrote to Alice Hooschede that it was set in “ a very beautiful region where [he] couldn’t be closer to the sea…I only regret not coming here sooner…What happiness it will be for me to show you all the delicious nooks and crannies here.”


The simplicity of this composition, a crescent beach and cliffs enveloping the sea at sunset, bespeaks Monet’s interest in eliminating superfluous details, allusions to human presence, and signs of modern life in order to achieve a more direct engagement with nature.  While some of his views of Pourville include sailboats on the horizon or the occasional beached rowboat, here the austere inactivity of the scene dramatically accentuates the intense activity of his brushwork and captures the deflection and refraction of light through the hazy and moisture filled atmosphere.  This representation of nature in its most stripped-down and elemental state—the meeting of the earth, water and air—permitted Monet to test the limits of his painting technique, poetically evoking the experience of the moment.  As Paul Tucker has suggested, this painting reveals that Monet “…had set himself a new task.  From here on, he was going to allow nature to speak on her own about her awesome powers and boundless splendor.  Her immensity and grandeur celebrated in the ever-expanding breadth of views…her intricate wholeness subtly suggested by the interrelationship of individual parts of pictures.”