When Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) settled in Etretat in 1869, he was already a renowned painter. There, he created marine landscapes which depicted the variations of the everchanging sea, which could be calm or rough, along with variations of the sky.
The Stormy Sea is a horizontal painting, constructed in three, successive bands: the earth, the sea, and the sky, which takes up the majority of the canvas. The clouds cover the sky whilst waves swell up at the surface of the sea. The painter manipulates the sea with a knife, using thick layers of dark green tones which cut through the whiteness of the sea foam. In this unsettled sea, the barges on the shore seem at risk, but not as much so as the small yacht that can be spotted on the horizon.
From Étretat, Courbet brought back 20 marine landscapes, including two large paintings, La Mer Orageuse (The Stormy Sea) and La Falaise d’Étretat Après l’Orage (The Cliffs of Étretat After the Storm) (Paris, Musée d’Orsay).