Between October and December 1885, Monet made nearly fifty paintings of the Normandy coast. This work shows the Porte d’Aval, a naturally formed arch, and a freestanding needle-like rock that attracted tourists and artists alike to the town of Étretat. Monet painted this view of the cliffs from an unusual location, accessible only by boat or via a precipitous path. The writer Guy de Maupassant described how the artist “watched the sun and the shadows, capturing in a few brushstrokes a falling ray of light or a passing cloud.”
The artist, sold to Sutton; James F. Sutton, New York (d. 1915); Mrs. James F. Sutton, New York, by descent (1915–33, sale, American Art Association, New York, 26 Oct. 1933, no. 60, ill., as Les Falaises d’Etretat, Normandie, sold to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, New York, sold to Clark, 30 Oct. 1933]; Robert Sterling Clark (1933–55); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.