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Key facts
Full title Storm at Belle-Ile
Artist Claude Monet
Artist dates 1840 - 1926
Date made 1886
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 61 × 74 cm
Inscription summary signed
Acquisition credit On loan from a private collection
Inventory number L1285
Location Room 44
Art route(s) B
Image copyright On loan from a private collection, © Private collection
Collection Main Collection
Storm at Belle-Ile
Claude Monet

Belle-Ile-en-Mer, the largest island off the coast of Brittany, was noted in nineteenth-century guidebooks for its rugged cliffs facing the Atlantic, gigantic, fantastically shaped rocks bursting from the water, and the fury with which waves ceaselessly assault them. By the mid-1880s Claude Monet was seeking wild natural motifs to paint. In 1886 he made his way to Belle-Ile for a brief visit but, captivated – ‘so beautiful, so different,’ he wrote – ended up staying for ten weeks, from 12 September to 25 November.

He painted some thirty-nine pictures on the island, most of them turbulent and improvisatory seascapes introducing a startling new freedom of execution and emotional gravity into his art. Perched high on the cliffs regardless of weather, Monet gazed down onto the rocks and out to sea. The drama of the paintings lies in his vertiginous viewpoint and sense of imminent peril. He himself used words like ‘sinister’ and ‘tragic’ to describe the scene. No less original is his limited but vibrant palette of blues, greens and whites, and the spontaneous handling of paint in swirls and eddies of colour, equivalent to the pounding surf itself. Here, rock, water and air perform a frenzied dance before Monet’s astonished eyes.

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