Low Tide at Trouville

WAG 6111


'Low Tide at Trouville' is one of the seascapes that Courbet painted on his visit to the Normandy coast in the summer and autumn of 1865. We know from a letter that he wrote to his parents that the vastness of the sea had made a strong impression on Courbet as early as 1841. In another letter to his patron and friend Alfred Bruyas in 1866, Courbet records his joy of a summer holiday at Trouville and the paintings he produced there: "twenty fine autumn skies - each one more extraordinary and free than the last". For much of his career Courbet focused on realistic rural landscapes. In painting this new subject, the sea, Courbet adjusted his style. 'Low Tide at Trouville' is very harmonious in terms of colour. Indeed the skill of the artist lies in the atmospheric rendering of the seascape with minimal means. The key of Courbet's palette was salmon pink and it can be seen in the centre of the painting where the horizon lies. From that he moved to softer pinks, blues and greys for the sky, sand tones and browns for the sand. The caricaturist G Randon commented enthusiastically about the painting: "As God has created the sky and the earth from nothing, so has Courbet drawn his seascapes from nothing or almost nothing: with three colours from his palette, three brushstrokes - as he knows how to do it - and there is an infinite sea and sky!". It is worth comparing this work to 'Ice Breaking up on the Seine' by Claude Monet (1840 - 1926) in the Walker Art Gallery collection, a painting which also attempts to explore the relationship between the surface and the depth of the painting and the effect of light on landscapes. The Walker acquired 'Low Tide at Trouville' in 1961 together with the painting 'White Houses, Ville d'Avray' by Georges Seurat (1859 - 1891) also in the Walker Art Gallery collection. The National Art Collections Fund, now known as Art Fund, contributed to the purchase cost, while an appeal made to large commercial and industrial firms on Merseyside also raised a significant amount of money.