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The Wave

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The Wave About 1869

Not on display

Courbet was fascinated by the power of the sea. He spent the summer of 1869 at Etretat on the Normandy coast and painted several pictures of waves breaking on the shore. The small scale of his canvas did not inhibit his ability to convey the vast expanse of stormy sky and sea. Courbet applied paint thickly using vigorous brush and palette knife strokes which complement the forceful surge of the wave. The motif of the single wave was inspired by Japanese colour prints which were widely available in Paris in the 1860s.

Glossary Open


A distinctive element in a work of art or design.

Palette knife

A small tool used for mixing and applying paint.


An image pressed or stamped onto paper or fabric. This encompasses a wide variety of techniques, usually produced in multiples, although one-off prints, known as monoprints, are also included. The term is also applied to photographic images.

Motif, Palette knife, Print


  • Acc. No. NG 2233
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 46.00 x 55.00 cm (framed: 66.8 x 76.2 x 9.5 cm)
  • Credit Presented by Sir Alexander Maitland in memory of his wife Rosalind 1960