Degas’s provençal painting of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, a medieval town on the Picardy coast northwest of Paris, surveys the site from an elevated vantage point, lending a view of rooftops and façades as well as backyards and gardens. This landscape was not painted on site, but later in the artist’s studio where he experimented with the structure of his many pictures of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme. The particularly ambiguous foreground and fractured elements in the background may result from the synthesis of two separate drawings sketched on site, the left half aligning with one sketch and the right another. Degas once advised: “A painting is something that requires as much trickery, malice, and vice as the perpetration of a crime, so create falsely and add a touch from nature.”
Jeanne Fèvre (the artist's niece), Nice; (Collection de Mlle J. Fèvre) sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, June 12, 1934; acquired from the Galerie de L'Élysée (Paul Ebstein), Paris, by Robert Lehman, New York, May 1950.