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The Wave (La Vague)

Gustave Courbet

European Art

Surging Seas

Throughout his career Claude Monet depicted France’s English Channel coastline. In works such as Rising Tide at Pourville,
he combined keen observation with Impressionism’s subjective use of color and light effects.

Henrik Willem Mesdag also painted churning waters, of the nearby North Sea. Here, a small ship with wind-torn sails is tossed by massive, white-capped waves. The broad expanse of water, almost matching the tone of the sky, dramatizes nature’s mighty power.

While summering at Étretat, the Realist painter Gustave Courbet was drawn to nature in an unbridled state, capturing a wave breaking at high tide. He wrote to the poet Victor Hugo: "The sea! The sea! . . . in her fury which growls, she reminds me of the caged monster who can devour me."
MEDIUM Oil on canvas
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES ca. 1869
    DIMENSIONS 25 3/4 x 34 15/16 x 3in. (65.4 x 88.7 x 7.6cm) frame: 32 1/4 x 41 x 3 in. (81.9 x 104.1 x 7.6 cm)
    SIGNATURE Signed lower left: "G. Courbet."
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mrs. Horace O. Havemeyer
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