"I am in a wonderfully wild region, with terrifying rocks and a sea of unbelievable colours; I am truly thrilled, even though it is difficult, because I had got used to painting the Channel, and I knew how to go about it, but the Atlantic Ocean is quite different". (Letter from Monet to Gustave Caillebotte).
Belle-île, the largest of the Breton Islands, was not much frequented by artists or writers in the 19th century. Monet, who was looking for new landscapes, different atmospheres, stayed there from 12 September to 25 November 1886. At first, the uncompromising wildness of this landscape disconcerted him with its constantly changing weather and the difficulties of reaching the locations that interested him. But the sheer cliffs and dizzying overhangs did not deter the artist, who set up his easel on the edge of the void, and stubbornly remained there, painting his chosen motifs.
This is one of the five paintings that Monet produced of the Port-Domois islands. It is the only one in landscape format, enabling him to give a broader view of the conflict, of the battle between the rocks and the sea. The rocks are laid out to create a feeling of space. In the style of Japanese prints, which had much in common with Impressionist aesthetics, the horizon is placed at the top of the painting, leaving little room for sky. The extraordinary, atmospheric vibration of the sea is rendered through intense colours. Blues, greens and violets run through a sea fringed with white, where the brush strokes are flat and broad, vertical or rounded, like circumflex accents or commas, stormy but controlled. This is a new style of brushwork, very different from Monet's Normandy paintings, and more suited to this awe-inspiring island where everything is beyond Man's control.