Rousseau liked to depict ordinary people at leisure. Here, the aeroplane flying overhead introduces a modern touch into the composition, as does the factory chimney in the background.
Rousseau depicted airships and aeroplanes several times in his work, which made him a pioneer in representing modernity. This theme would be widely taken up by the painter Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), who greatly admired Rousseau’s work. The conquest of the skies, the great challenge of the era, was the top story in the press. The aeroplane is perfectly recognisable: it is the biplane of Wilbur Wright (1867-1912), the American pioneer who, with his brother, Orville Wright (1871-1948) organised public flights from Le Mans in 1908, and whose image was circulated in Le Petit Journal illustré de la jeunesse on 27 December 1908 and in the Petit Journal on 5 September 1909.
The beach, or strip of ochre coloured earth, separates the fishermen’s space from the houses. It slopes down on the right of the painting, which means that the houses, depicted frontally, sit oddly in the space as their base follows the curve of the ground. Similarly, the fishermen, whose feet are cropped, seem to be placed on the water, or rather, stuck on to the strip of land.
Provenance: Ambroise Vollard, Paris; Paul Guillaume (1931); Domenica Walter