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Eugène Isabey

Brittany Coast Scene (Saint-Malo)


Eugène Isabey
Paris 1803 – Montévrain, France, 1886


Brittany Coast Scene (Saint-Malo)




Oil on canvas


46.3 x 66 cm


Gift of David A. Wanklyn, inv. 1936.657


Western Art

Marine painting became the object of renewed interest when France relaunched its merchant navy. The Anglomania that gripped French artistic circles did not fail to impress Eugène Isabey, who visited England on several occasions. There, Isabey studied the heavy swells and calm beaches depicted by the likes of J.M.W. Turner and John Constable exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Typical of the artist’s later style, this painting renders a storm off Saint-Malo, whose picturesque architecture Isabey attentively studied. Famous for its fortified ramparts, this port in Brittany was also known for its heavy tides – among the most impressive in Europe – whose devastating power was thwarted by breakwaters characteristically made of spiky rows of tree trunks, seen here. The Romantic sentiment of humanity’s minuscule status when drawing boats ashore to save them from titanic nature’s colossal power is rendered by slashing brushwork and intense impasto that blends dark sky, granite buildings and anthracite sea.

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