The dramatic pierced cliffs and pebbly beaches surrounding the town of Étretat on the coast of Normandy, sixteen miles northeast of Le Havre, attracted tourists and artists alike in the nineteenth century. The development of railroad lines between Paris and the coast, as well as abundant new travel literature devoted to natural scenery and local customs, drew visitors to what had been an isolated fishing village. Boudin first painted at Étretat in the fall of 1890, when he made several views of the cliffs and beach. Although he was well known for painting beach scenes filled with fashionably dressed ladies and gentlemen, here Boudin has chosen to exclude tourists and bathers in order to concentrate on traditional fishing vessels that have been pulled onto the shore with the aid of large capstans or winches and draped with drying fishing nets. The distinctive natural archway known as the Porte d'Aval frames the beach on the left, while a steamship makes its way across the horizon, the sole indication of activity and modern life. Jennifer A. Thompson, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 48.
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