Claude Monet

Pyramids At Port-Coton, Rough Sea
Oil, canvas
65×81 cm


Pyramids at Port-Coton, Rough Sea was the first work by Claude Monet to enter the collection of Sergei Shchukin. Later his collection included eleven paintings by the artist made in different periods. Monet worked on the painting in the autumn of 1886. We know that the artist stayed on the island of Belle-Ile from September 12 to November 25. At that time he painted about forty pieces, including six versions of the rocks, known as the Pyramids of Port-Coton. The composition closest to the painting in Shchukin's collection is in the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. All six versions were exhibited in 1889 at the Galerie Georges Petit. The preface to the exhibition catalogue was written by the playwright, critic and novelist Octave Mirbeau, who was extremely popular in Russia as well.

Finding himself on an island in the Bay of Biscay, Monet was struck by the difference between the calm waters of the Channel off the coast of Normandy, where he had previously painted, and the turbulent waters of the Atlantic. Shortly after his arrival, he wrote to Gustave Caillebotte: "I have found myself in a land of sublime wilderness, where the terrifying cliffs tower, and the sea shimmers with unbelievable colours...". Monet's style changed considerably at this time: the dynamic composition of the sea-scape with its winding cliffs, whose outlines are echoed by many expressive brushstrokes, gives the painting a dramatic edge. Some scholars believe that Monet's unusual composition was inspired by a woodcut of Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), which he had in his extensive collection of Japanese art.



The creation
of the painting