This painting depicts the famous coast of Étretat in Normandy. To the right, we see the soaring white cliffs of the “Falaise d’Amont” which are cut into in the foreground by a steep rock. While there are two ships sailing out on the horizon, the strip of shoreline is deserted. The area between the sea and the cloudy sky is dominated by the splendid natural spectacle of the architectonic rock formation. The rocks of the Norman coast had served as a popular motif since the beginning of Romanticism. Before Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) turned to seascapes in the 1860s, he had laid out a new approach to painting in his 1855 Realist Manifesto. In opposition to idealism, he outlined realist painting as exclusively depicting things that the artist could see and touch.