Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Painted during Matisse's visit to the Normandy coast in the summer of 1920, Falaises d'amont à Etretat is a vibrant depiction of the dramatic cliffs and the daily activities of the fishermen in the village of Etretat. These are the same cliffs which inspired Courbet and then Monet in the 1880s. The chalky cliffs curved out from the town in a crescent-like form before rising to great heights, their multi-colored, striated surfaces capped by contrasting lush greens.
The infusion of light, shimmering colors and the obvious joy in which Matisse took in painting the beachside and cliffs at Etretat in the summer of 1920 was observed by the art critic Charles Vildrac, who wrote in the catalogue that accompanied the first public exhibition of Falaises d'amont à Etretat: "You experience at once both the light and the landscape, unable to disassociate them. The impalpable gauze that here and there finishes drying and polishing the sky, the beach, the cliffs, the horizon, the boat resting on the pebbles...you see all that in a single, absolutely simple image. Thus do Matisse's landscapes appear to me: and thus it seems, did Nature appear to him, touched by the miracle of a suddenly rediscovered light, the miracle lies in the painter's vision and in the power that he has to reproduce it" (C. Vildrac, quoted in exh. cat., Exposition Henri Matisse, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1920).