In 1867, Claude Oscar Monet was experiencing financial difficulties and had discovered that his mistress and future wife, Camille, was pregnant. During the summer, he left all of his problems behind and travelled to Sainte-Adresse with his family. His parents owned a home in a Le Havre resort. The Impressionist took advantage of the sunny terrace view and painted the colourful seascape Terrace at the Seaside, Sainte-Adresse, using his relatives as models. His father can be seen to the right, wearing a panama hat.
Monet, as a modern artist, was unwilling to depict Classical themes such as mythological or biblical subjects. He preferred to paint subjects from everyday life, and he did so beautifully – contrary to the preferences of most art critics at the time. While the Classica Academies attempted to conceal the true characteristics of painting by working realistically, the Impressionists wished to present their work primarily as paintings. This meant that these artists, including Monet, were unconcerned about the two-dimensional nature of painting.
Monet divided Terrace at the Seaside, Sainte-Adresse into three horizontal and nearly equal areas. The terrace is at the bottom of the canvas, with two people sitting in the foreground and a couple standing next to the edge of the sea. Both men are wearing hats, and the women are holding white parasols. The garden is well-kept and features red and white flowers on the left as well as in the foreground. Monet also added some blue flowers to the right side of the canvas, which is also filled with colourful, vibrant flowers. This vibrant vegetation grows alongside a red-brown wooden fence.
On the terrace, there are two flags, the one on the right being red. Art historians have compared Monet’s division of the composition into three strips to the French flag. The painter most likely observed this scene from the second floor of the house in order to understand the concept of a high perspective.
The sea was painted with loose brush strokes in blue tones. There are a few sailboats near the terrace, but the majority are on the horizon. The Impressionist also included a larger ship in the background and several points of smoke rising into the sky.