La Falaise

Henri Rousseau
La Falaise
vers 1895
huile sur toile
H. 21 ; L. 35 cm avec cadre H. 34,5 ; L. 47 ; P. 5,8 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée de l'Orangerie) / Franck Raux
Henri Rousseau (1844 - 1910)

This representation of a cliff on the Normandy coast is an unusual motif in Rousseau’s oeuvre, as he rarely left the suburbs of Paris. He probably worked from a reproduction of a painting, possibly Claude Monet’s Falaises à Pourville [Cliffs at Pourville] or Falaise avec bateaux [Cliff and Boats] and Mer Orageuse [The Stormy Sea], also known as La Vague [The Wave], by Gustave Courbet. He might also have taken his inspiration from one of the innumerable paintings of cliffs in Normandy by more obscure artists. Rousseau probably combined several sources, and completely recomposed his painting according to his own idea of this landscape.
Whatever the case, the structure of the rock and his representation of the sea are highly simplified and reduced. He adds fishermen and large sailing boats. Here again, the interest lies in the way in which Rousseau captures the motif. He was inspired by the graphic style of folk imagery. It was his way of following the recommendation he had previously been given by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) to retain his naivety.