The customs officers' paths were created as part of the Continental System (the attempt to stop Britain's export and re-export trade with Europe) under the First French Empire of Napoleon. The cabins, or straw huts, were initially observation points over the coast for customs officers or shelters for fishermen. In the 19th century, they became one of the favorite motifs of plein air artists. Claude Monet and Jean Francis Auburtin both painted a series of the cabins. This exhibit is the first of a series of four representations of Normandy places painted by Monet and Auburtin.
The Customs Officer’s Cabin and Varengeville Church (1915/1920) by AnonymousMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
At 656 feet, just below the church, the path leads to the Moutiers Gorge where the customs officer's cabin, immortalized by Monet and Auburtin, could once be found.
Varengeville. On the Cliffs (1900/1910) by Georges MarchandMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
Created by Napoleon I at the time of the Continental System, customs officers' stations guarded the coast of the English Channel. The one in Petit-Ailly can be found halfway between Varengeville Church and Pourville Beach.
The Path on the Cliff at Varengeville (1882) by Claude MonetMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
For Monet, the Petit-Ailly Gorge, which cuts the Varengeville Cliff, with the "little house" (the customs officer's cabin) on its left side, offered an infinite source of motifs. From 1882, he painted it 13 times.
Here, the cabin can be seen from the opposite side of the valley. Between 1896 and 1897, he resumed his series of the subject. It appeared 17 times in his paintings with highly sought-after atmospheric effects.
The Customs Officer’s Cabin at Petit-Ailly (Varengeville) by Jean Francis AuburtinMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
For this piece, Auburtin chose the same point of view as Monet. The same movements of the land and the little cabin nestled amongst the vegetation are recognizable and the soft green and blue colors match perfectly.
But in Auburtin's painting, the cloud contortions have a prominent position and are in harmony with the rocky convulsions of the cliff.
Varengeville. The Gorges and the Customs Officer’s Cabin (1905) by AnonymousMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
This photograph offers another point of view of the customs officer's cabin and the Moutiers Gorge in Varengeville.
Moutiers Gorge at Varengeville by AnonymousMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
This perspective has been the subject of several works by Monet and Auburtin, who both chose not to depict the beach huts scattered across the path.
Both artists preferred to paint nature rather than new buildings as a result of tourism.
Hanging Valley at Varengeville by Jean Francis AuburtinMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
Auburtin created several gouaches of the Varengeville Valley.
In a purity that borders on abstraction, the landscape is reduced to just a few elements: the rocky sides of the gorge, the sea, and the sky.
Gorge du Petit-Ailly (2018)Musée des impressionnismes Giverny
Today, the beach huts have disappeared and the site's wild state calls to mind the works of the two artists.
Varengeville. Yellow Rays from the Cliffs at Mordal by Jean Francis AuburtinMusée des impressionnismes Giverny
Just like Monet, Félix Vallotton, and René Ménard, Auburtin found infinite sources of inspiration in Varengeville, capturing the intangible shape of clouds or the uniqueness of some sunsets.
This painting is evidence of the artist's taste for the spectacular effects of light illuminating the cliffs.
The exhibition 'Monet/Auburtin. An Artistic Encounter' is grateful for the support of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Francine and Michel Quentin, and the Association Les Amis et les descendants de Jean Francis Auburtin.
Marie-Claire et Christian Blanckaert, Katherine Bourguignon, François Doury, Elizabeth Glassman, Elizabeth Hopkins, François-Xavier Labarraque, Jean-David Jumeau-Lafond, Annick Le Ciclé, François Le Ciclé, Hannah McAulay, Franck Medioni, Philippe Piguet, Francine et Michel Quentin, Cathy Ricciardelli, Francesca Rose