Georges Seurat 1859-1891
N06067 Le Bec du Hoc, Grandcamp
Inscribed 'Seurat' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 32 1/8 (64.5 x 81.5)
Purchased by the National Gallery from Lord Clark through Marlborough Fine Art (Grant-in-Aid) 1952; transferred 1953
Prov: Camille Laurent, Belgium; Georges Famenne, Brussels; private collection, Berlin; Frau E. Kocherthaler, Hamburg; with or through Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin and Düsseldorf; Lord Clark, London, 1935 or 1936
Exh: 8e Exposition de Peinture par Mme Marie Bracquemond, MIle Mary Cassatt, MM. Degas. Forain et al. (8th Impressionist exhibition), Paris, May-June 1886 (176); Salon des Indépendants, Paris, August-September 1886 (354); IVe Exposition des XX, Brussels, February 1887 (Seurat 2); IXe Exposition des XX, Brussels, October 1892 (Seurat 4), lent by C. Laurent; Exposition des Peintres Impressionnistes, La Libre Esthétique, Brussels, February-March 1904 (145), lent by Camille Laurent; Georges Seurat (1859-1891), Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, December 1908-January 1909 (56), lent by M.G.F.; XII Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia, Venice, April-October 1920 (French pavilion 55); A Nineteenth Century Selection: French Paintings, Bignou Gallery, New York, March 1935 (8, repr.); L'Impressionnisme, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, June-September 1935 (78); Seurat (1859-91), Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, February 1936 (42); Masters of French 19th Century Painting, New Burlington Galleries, London, October 1936 (117), lent by Kenneth Clark; A Century of French Painting, Leeds City Art Gallery, October 1937 (20); Nineteenth Century French Paintings, National Gallery, London, December 1942-January 1943 (34); XXIV Biennale, Venice, May-September 1948 (Impressionists 98, repr.); Landscape in French Art 1550-1900, RA, London, December 1949-March 1950 (292); Seurat: Paintings and Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago, January-March 1958 (107); Museum of Modern Art, New York, March-May 1958 (107)
Lit: Paul Signac, 'Le Néo-Impressionnisme: Documents' in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 6th period, XI, 1934, p.58; Paul Signac, 'The Neo Impressionist Movement' in exh. catalogue Seurat and his Contemporaries, Wildenstein Gallery, London, January-February 1937, p.15; John Rewald, Georges Seurat (Paris 1948), pp.53, 71, 152, repr. pl.35; Henri Dorra and John Rewald, Seurat (Paris 1959), No.153, pp.XLIV-XLVI, LIV, LVIII, 178-80, repr. pp.179 and 180; Robert L. Herbert, 'Seurat and Emile Verhaeren: Unpublished Letters' in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 6th period, LIV, 1959, pp.316, 318, 322, 327-8; C.M. de Hauke, Seurat et son Oeuvre (Paris 1961), No.159, Vol.1, p.106, repr. p.107; André Chastel and Fiorella Minervino, L'Opera Completa di Seurat (Milan 1972), No.159, p.103 repr. and pl.XXVIII in colour
Repr: Lucie Cousturier, Seurat (Paris 1926), pl.19; Jacques de Laprade, Seurat (Paris 1951), p.36 in colour
Seurat's stay in Grandcamp on the Normandy coast in the summer of 1885 resulted in his first series of coastal scenes and seascapes, which apart from boats are almost devoid of any trace of the human presence. There are altogether twelve croquetons dating from this visit and five larger pictures, some of which may have been painted partly or wholly in Paris after his return. A croqueton 16.2 x 25.2cm probably painted on the spot, served as the basis for this work. The painted border is by the artist, but the frame is modern and the stippling on it is not by him. In fact contemporary reviews record that the painting was exhibited in 1886 and 1887 in a white frame.
According to an article by Signac published in 1934 (op. cit.), 'Le Bec du Hoc' was bought from the exhibition of Les XX at Brussels in 1887 by M. van Cutsem and was the first picture Seurat ever sold. However, van Cutsem definitely owned another seascape 'La Grève du Bas-Butin, Honfleur', which was in the same exhibition of Les XX, so it was probably the picture Signac had in mind.
The Bec du Hoc, which is usually known as the Pointe du Hoc, is a promontory about two miles east of Grandcamp which was the scene of particularly heavy fighting during the Normandy landings, when it suffered extensive damage. To reduce a German battery which threatened the troops landing on Omaha Beach, the American commander ordered a naval bombardment by the battleship Texas. After 600 salvoes of 14-inch shells the 2nd Rangers Battalion scaled the cliffs at dawn, using rope ladders.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.682-3, reproduced p.682