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Group: Forces of Nature
Artist: Claude MONET
Title: The Manneporte (Etretat)
Date Made: 1883
Lender: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Credit Line: Bequest of William Church Osborn, 1951
Monet's works from the 1880s are painted in a more dynamic manner than his earlier works.
The bold calligraphy of Japanese ink paintings of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries embodies the latent forces within rocks, cliffs and water, as do Monet’s long linear brushstrokes in his paintings of similar subjects on the French coast. In contrast to the monochrome line and wash of ink painting, Monet’s lines are coloured, thick and pastey, and adhere together to form a dense, mobile surface. The rearing cliff in The Manneporte (Etretat) is built up from broad patches of colour covered with line after line of saturated ochres, rusty reds, zigzags and glazes of blue-violet or blue-green. The nature of the brushmarks suggests that they were painted rapidly; they not only embody the dynamic, upward thrust of the motif, but also enact the dynamism of the creative act. Such calligraphy suggests a direct expressive relationship between the marks of the brush and the structure of the motif, the strata and lines of force in cliff face and rock arch, and the weathering by water and wind.
Courbet and many others had painted this motif, but none expressed the sense of the dramatic thrust of the rock from the churning sea. Monet’s composition relates directly to Hiroshige’s The entrance to the cave at Enoshima Island in Sagami Province. In these works the rock arch is cut by the frame, and seems both to plunge into the sea and to thrust upwards, while water surges around the base of the arch and isolated rocks. Both works contain minute figures that indicate the mighty scale of the arch. Even if Monet had thought of the print as a translation of a brush painting, his dynamic linear brushstrokes probably owed more to Japanese painting itself.
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