1870 (50 Kb); Oil on canvas, 54 x 66 cm (21 1/4 x 26 in); Szepmuveszeti Museum, Budapest
Monet was the unparalleled master of painting water. Here he has succeeded in reproducing the shallowness of the ocean at low tide. The dark rock, pier, and far bank of the water recede to a vanishing point located at the smallest sailboat in the distance. The strong perspective conveys the sensation that the water has flowed out in that direction. A pair of fishermen provide points of interest in the foreground that call attention to the shallowness of the remaining water. The small patch of flat water behind the man seated on a crate reveals the figures to be standing on a sand spit. The bare feet of the standing figure can almost be heard to squish in the wet sand. On this overcast day, there are no shadows. This allows the water reflections to stand out. The sails of the boats cast very flat and stationary reflections on the water surface that contribute to the perception of shallowness. The deeper water to the right provides a subtle reflection of the clouds that is easily overlooked at first glance. By painting low tide, of course, Monet suggests the eventual return of the water, which imparts a transience to the scene. Yet he accomplishes the portrayal of this moment in time with such artistry that the setting is transformed into something timeless and eternal. That is the central paradox of Monet's work: the transfiguration of an evanescent impression into an image of everlasting permanence.