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William Henry Lippincott

Born: 1849, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Died: 1920, New York, New York, United States of America

The Cliffs at Etretat
1890

Oil on canvas
Image: 10 3/4 x 14 1/16 in. (27.3 x 35.7 cm)
Frame: 18 3/4 x 22 1/8 x 4 1/4 in. (47.6 x 56.2 x 10.8 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.173
Signed: Lower right: Wm:H:LIPPINCOTT./ETRETAT,1890
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

The Cliffs at Etretat by William Henry Lippincott shows the famous white chalk headlands along France’s northwestern coast on the English Channel. Seen from the south along Etretat’s beach, the cliffs, with their stark pale-yellow faces and crowning carpet of green, are framed by the fore- and aft-masts of the fishing boat pulled up on shore in the middle ground. At either end of the boat, men work repairing the nets; an untidy mound of nets, cordage, and baskets litters the beach in the right foreground. More vessels and figures are scattered along the shore. The village, with its pink-walled houses topped by gray slate roofs, is glimpsed in the right distance, partly in shadow and partly in the bright sun that highlights the cliff’s exposed chalk surfaces. Crowning the distant bluff is a small stone church that still stands today.

Etretat, with its dramatic cliffs, had long been the haunt of artists when Lippincott visited the fishing village at some point during the eight-year period he spent in France, between 1874 and 1882. Among the better-known artists who portrayed the beach and cliffs of Etretat are French painters Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Eugène Boudin (1824–98) and American landscape artist George Inness (whose later rendering, from memory, is in the Terra Foundation’s collection (TF 1993.4). Lippincott’s painting is evidence that he made another visit there, in 1890. No return trip to France is recorded in the artist’s biography, of which few details are known, but the painting’s intimate scale and relatively spontaneous brushwork, as well as the inscription at lower right, suggest that Lippincott made it on the spot in Etretat. His composition, in which the cliffs serve as a backdrop to the human activity on the beach, reflects his primary occupation as a painter of scenes of everyday life and of portraits.

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Provenance

The artist
Schutz & Company Fine Art, New York, New York, May 1989
Sotheby's New York, New York, December 3, 1992, lot 44
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1992

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Exhibition History

Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915 (Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 1993; April 1–October 30, 1994; April 1–October 31, 1995. [exh. cat.]

Giverny: une impression américaine (Giverny, An American Impression), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 1, 1998.

Rivières et rivages: les artistes américains, 1850–1900 (Waves and Waterways: American Perspectives, 1850–1900), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

American Artists in France, 1860–1910, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–June 3, 2001.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002.

The People Work: American Perspectives, 1840–1940 (Le Travail à l'oeuvre: les artistes américains 1840–1940), Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 15–May 25, 2003; Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, June 8–August 17, 2003. [exh. cat.]

En plein air: personnages dans un paysage (En Plein Air: Figures in a Landscape), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004.

Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930 (Passing through Paris: American Artists in France, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, April 1–October 31, 2005. [exh. brochure]

Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930 (Passing through Paris: American Artists in France, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, April 1–October 29, 2006. [exh. brochure]

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Published References

Sotheby's, New York, New York (Sale 6373, December 3, 1992): lot 44. Ill. lot 44 (color).

Griffith, Bronwyn A. E. Passing Through Paris: Americans in France, 1860–1930. (exh. brochure, Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2005. Text n.p.; fig. 11, n.p. (color).

Griffith, Bronwyn A. E. Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930. (exh. brochure, Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2005. Text n.p.; fig. 11, n.p. (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. Monet's Étretat: Destination and Motif. (exh. brochure,Timken Museum of Art). San Diego, California: Timken Museum of Art, 2017. Text, n.p.; ill. fig. 4, n.p. (color).

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