In 1882 Claude Monet spent two highly productive periods at Pourville on the Normandy coast, from early February to early April and then again from mid-June to early October. He was immensely delighted with the site, writing to Alice Hoschedé:
The region is extremely beautiful, and I only regret that I did not come sooner, losing time at Dieppe. One couldn't be closer to the sea than I am...the waves beating at the foot of my house. (quoted in D. Wildenstein, op. cit., letter no. 241)
Monet was particularly enamored with the sea, later writing to Alice, "You know my passion for the sea, I'm mad about it" (quoted in ibid., letter no. 730). He channeled his enthusiasm directly into painting, working on as many as eight separate canvases in one day, and producing about one hundred pictures in total during his stay. As Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge have commented, for Monet, "1882 was a year of almost superhuman productivity" (R. Gordon and A. Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, p. 95).
These works were immensely succesful, both with critics and with collectors. Monet's dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, purchased paintings from him both in April and October of 1882, paying him over 31,000 francs. The present work depicts the Pointe de l'Ailly at Pourville, a vantage which Monet painted repeatedly that year.
Concerning Monet's works at Pourville, Paul Tucker has written:
From here on, he was going to allow nature to speak on her own about her awesome powers and boundless splendor. Her chiaroscuro, therefore, would be hailed as both concrete and otherwordly...her immensity and grandeur celebrated in the ever-expanding breadth of views...her intricate wholeness subtly suggested by the interrelationship of individual parts of pictures.... The human would always have a place in this new enterprise, whether explicitly in the figures Monet often includes or by implication, as in the houses, boats or other man-made artifacts that appear in his scenes. Even the immediacy of his forms and the physicality of his touch allow one to sense Monet's presence in the picture and thus that of an individual standing on this site as a surrogate for the viewer.... For the energy he once found in the contradictions of contemporaneity were now to be discovered in the magisterial way in which rocks meet water and land reaches to sky. (P. Tucker, Claude Monet, Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, p. 111)