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Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867-1886
Yale University Press
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In this magnificently illustrated book, Robert L. Herbert, author of the acclaimed Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society, presents a new interpretation of Monet's beautiful seascapes of the Normandy coast. Discussing more than fifty works, Herbert shows how these splendid pictures of Etretat and other resorts reflect the dialogue between the modern city and pre-modern nature that underlay tourism. Interweaving the colorful history of sea resorts, stylistic analysis, details of Monet's life, and reflections on the marketing of his art, this book offers a fascinating new perspective on some of the artist's most beloved works. Herbert points out that in early paintings at Sainte-Adresse and Trouville Monet represented vacationers and resort leisure, but when he returned to the Normandy coast in the early 1880s, he painted lonely views that eliminated all signs of tourism. He shows that generations of vacationers seeking these views had transformed fishing villages into resorts, even as they wished to preserve the illusions of a pre-modern seacoast. Monet's modernity lay in the production of neo-romantic myths, illusions of spontaneous responses to untouched nature that were welcomed by Parisian galleries and international collectors. At the same time, Herbert notes, modernity is also found in Monet's evocative brushwork and color and in his dramatic bird's-eye views, which speak to modern culture's search for personal release from the workplace.