The pleasures of the beach in the 19th centurye century

The pleasures of the beach in the 19th century<sup>e</sup> century

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  • Granville Beach.

    ISABEY Eugene (1803 - 1886)

  • Bathers on Trouville beach.

    BOUDIN Eugène-Louis (1824 - 1898)

  • On the beach.

    MANET Edouard (1832 - 1883)

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Title: Granville Beach.

Author : ISABEY Eugene (1803 - 1886)

Creation date : 1863

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 83 - Width 124

Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas

Storage place: Museum of the Old Castle of Laval website

Contact copyright: © Musée du vieux Granville, repository of the Musée de Laval

© Musée du vieux Granville, repository of the Musée de Laval

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Title: Bathers on Trouville beach.

Author : BOUDIN Eugène-Louis (1824 - 1898)

Creation date : 1869

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 31 - Width 48

Technique and other indications: oil painting on wood

Storage place: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Picture reference: 85EE2020 / RF1968

Bathers on Trouville beach.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

To close

Title: On the beach.

Author : MANET Edouard (1832 - 1883)

Creation date : 1873

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 59.6 - Width 73.2

Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas

Storage place: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Picture reference: 99DE4986 / RF1953 -24

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: July 2012

Historical context

The shores of the Channel, "territories of the void" until the years 1820-1830, attracted from this period an increasingly numerous clientele of aristocrats, English and French. Tourism also benefits from a quality rail network which, from the 1850s, linked the small ports of Normandy to each other and to Paris.

Image Analysis

The artists of the 1860s and 1870s, observers of a still new pleasure and need, describe to us a practice of the beach that we no longer recognize today. The Bathers of Eugène Boudin, paradoxically, do not seem very keen on swimming. The weather, moreover, does not lend itself to this: the colors of a rather reduced palette - the dirty white of the sky, the predominantly black, white, cream, ocher of the beach - seem to indicate a weak sunshine. This civilized company of elegant gentlemen and ladies who have come to the beach in suits or long dresses anyway prefers to converse among themselves as in a living room, to walk on the foreshore in small groups or to contemplate the sea. On the beach, we remains standing or sitting; only children having fun in the foreground and a small dog on the far left. In the picture On the beach, the couple represented by Manet are just as peaceful and refined, but at least they are on the sand. The woman, dressed in a dress that covers her from the feet to the shoulders, reads, sits, while the man, in a black coat and beret, gazes out at the sea with a few sails. Although their bodies are not uncovered, their position is relatively relaxed: it is a way of involving the viewer, already seduced by the contrast between light colors (the pale yellow sand, the white dress, the foam) and dark (the black of the coat, the royal blue of the sea) and attracted in the painting by the fact of a horizon line placed high enough. Granville Beach Isabey is not the scene of worldly conversations nor of silent pleasures, but the place of a storm which casts its gray, beige and black hues on the sea and the cliffs: the sea wind pushes dark clouds towards the sea. coast, waves the sea, flaps the flags (red, precisely) and disrupts the bathers, which does not prevent them from remaining on the shore or even in the water, heckling and circling, inside of this zone "for single women" which is reserved for them. They wear complete costumes which make them sacrifice their beauty to decency, as Alphonse Karr deplores it in 1841: “With their woolen suit, their jacket, their pants and their oilcloth cap, [the bathers] seem like a crowd of nasty monkeys frolicking on the beach. »(Quoted by G. DESERT, Daily life on the Normandy beaches from the Second Empire to the Roaring Twenties, Hachette, 1983, p. 176).


These three paintings show the variety of beach practices in the 19th century. The pleasure of bathers is both spiritual and physical, because the stay at the sea is at the same time cure, contemplation, social act and leisure. The aristocrats and bourgeois who, in the nineteenth century, "form the world of bathers par excellence", like to find in the resorts of the Channel (and soon the Atlantic) luxury hotels, racetracks, casinos, theaters, the walks and regattas to which they are accustomed. It was at this point that the taste for maritime vacationing was born, which responds to a new need, but also to a new sociability. The clientele of the seaside resorts spread under the Second Empire, before its massification at the start of the Third Republic, which will continue to expand thereafter. But, until the 1930s, only a wealthy clientele could taste the pleasures of the beach; and it is naturally an aristocratic atmosphere that Proust celebrates when he describes, at the beginning of the century, the place of his vacation as a young man, Balbec (a town inspired by Cabourg), with its women with sought-after dresses, its Grand-Hotel, its casino and its dike on which he sees young girls parade "in a sporting procession, worthy of the antique and of Giotto" (In Search of Lost Time, t. II, In the shade of young girls in bloom, Gallimard, nrf, 1919, p. 113 and 99).

  • bourgeoisie
  • impressionism
  • Hobbies
  • Normandy
  • tourism
  • sea
  • beach
  • Handle
  • Granville


Daniel CLARY Tourism and vacationing on the Normandy coast , State thesis, Caen, 1974.Alain CORBIN (dir) The Advent of Leisure: 1850-1960 Paris, Aubier, 1995. Gabriel DESERT Daily life on the Normandy beaches from the Second Empire to the Roaring Twenties Paris, Hachette, 1983.P. DUPRE Economic history. The coast of Calvados, 1830-1939. From traditional activities to tourism , 3rd cycle thesis, Caen, 1980.Jacques-Sylvain KLEIN Normandy: cradle of Impressionism: 1820-1900 Rennes, Ed.Ouest-France, 1996.Michel MOLLAT DU JOURDIN "Le front de mer", in Pierre NORA (dir), Memorial place , volume III, France Paris, Gallimard, 1986, p. 617-671.

To cite this article

Ivan JABLONKA, "The pleasures of the beach in the XIXe century "


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