Artist: Pierre Henri de Valenciennes (French, Toulouse 1750–1819 Paris)
Date: possibly 1785
Medium: Oil on paper, laid down on canvas
Dimensions: 8 3/8 x 19 3/8 in. (21.3 x 49.2 cm)
Credit Line: The Whitney Collection, Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003
Accession Number: 2003.42.54
This study is the product of one of the earliest known plein-air painting excursions on the Channel coast. With a painterly sensibility honed by the direct observation of nature, Valenciennes sketched the light, atmosphere, and swiftly moving water at the mouth of the river Rance. This exercise was intended to train his eye and hand to capture such fleeting effects so that he could draw from the experience when painting in the studio. The investigatory spirit of Valenciennes’s sketches, painted in France and Italy, mark them as signal achievements of the Enlightenment.