Description & Technical information

The present large sheet is a fine example of Emile Schuffenecker’s use of pastel, a medium he favoured and which he used with considerable skill throughout his mature career. The drawing may be dated to the 1880s or early 1890s, when Schuffenecker produced a number of paintings and pastels of coastal views in Brittany and Normandy, particularly near Yport and Étretat. The pastel landscapes of this period are, in particular, among Schuffenecker’s finest works in this demanding medium. The scholar Jill Grossvogel has noted that ‘The lightness of pastel, its own evanescence, was especially appropriate to Schuffenecker’s landscapes and seascapes – its transparent qualities and the ease with which it could be manipulated were ideally suited to capturing movement, setting down images whose essence was literally fleeting, changing, inconstant in appearance at any given moment.’ As another scholar has commented, ‘In his pastels from Normandy, the world appears as ephemerally fleeting reflections of an intensity that is matched only by the later works of Claude Monet. But Schuffenecker’s light is significantly cooler than Monet’s. Everything is enveloped in an atmospherically scintillating haze created by mixing white into the pigments.’

Views of coastal cliffs were among the artist’s favourite subjects. As one scholar noted of Schuffenecker, writing a decade or so after the artist’s death, ‘Pure impressionist, he thought and he showed that the aiguille at Etretat, for example, taking advantage of the infinite play of light and the changing aspects with which that light adorned the rock formation, could summon up a world of sensations capable of providing the painter, throughout his entire life, work and delight.’

A number of pastel drawings by Schuffenecker of cliffs at Étretat and elsewhere, similar to the present sheet, are in the collections of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brest, Tate Modern in London and the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, as well as in several French private collections. An oil painting of Étretat by Schuffenecker, dated 1888, is in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Date:  1880-1890
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century, 20th century
Origin:  Normandy
Medium: Pastel on light brown paper.
Signature: Stamped with the Schuffenecker atelier monogram (not in Lugt) at the lower left. 

Dimensions: 30 x 45.7 cm (11³/₄ x 18 inches)
Provenance: The estate of the artist
Probably his daughter Jeanne Schuffenecker, Paris
Possibly Jacques Fouquet, Galerie Les Deux Iles, Paris
Private collection.