In July and August of 1906 Dufy travelled along the Normandy coast in the company of Albert Marquet. Here, painting side by side in the newly popular resort towns of Le Havre, Trouville and Honfleur, they explored the possibilities offered by the expressive, saturated colours of the Fauve palette, allied to their own - often remarkably similar - summary modelling and use of black. 'Dufy's works from this period reveal, in their use of black - a colour banished from the fauve palette - the influence of the art of Manet, which both Dufy and Marquet came to appreciate when his work was shown in a retrospective at the 1905 Salon d'Automne. They too drew upon this straightforward way of simplifying forms and constructing them through the arbitrary use of pure colours' (D. Perez-Tibi, Dufy, London, 1989, pp. 28-29).
Dufy had painted a series of pictures in his earlier Impressionistic style depicting figures on the beach and the famous pier at Sainte-Adresse between 1901 and 1904. Returning to the subject in 1906 with La jetée, Dufy has imbued a familiar subject with the pictorial freedom of his Fauve experiments and the luminosity inherent in his theory of couleur-lumière that was to preoccupy him over his entire career. 'Around 1905-1906, I was painting on the beach at Sainte-Adresse. I had previously painted beaches in the manner of the Impressionists, and had reached saturation point, realizing that this method of copying nature was leading me off into infinity, with its twists and turns and its most subtle and fleeting details... How...could I succeed in conveying not what I see, but that which is, that which exists for me, my reality... From that day onwards, I was unable to return to my barren struggles with the elements that were visible to my gaze. It was no longer possible to show them in their external form' (Dufy, quoted in op. cit., p. 23).