Many of my readers have asked, privately and not, where it's from, what it means, who painted it, and why I chose this painting to head my blog.
The time has come to tell you.
First, look at it for a moment: note the vague bank of buildings in the background. Note the hanging sky, which has just shed its burden of rain over the promenade, where afternoon strollers quickly take the daily air before another shower sends them scurrying to the cafes along the waterfront. Can you smell the fresh rainy scent that just veils the stagnant algae-heavy odour that hangs about the wharves?
Claude Monet, Fishing Boats, Le Havre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Can you see how children hurry adults along, thinking of the pastries that might accompany a bowl of warm milk in a minute? The impatience of meeting yet another acquaintance is in their step. Being told to watch the berthing boats, and the departing fishing ketches, is no consolation: it would be better to be indoors, or to watch the shifting scene and the gathering storm from behind a large window.
The crack of a canvas sail, the whistle of a breeze that clinks a steel chain block against a mast, the snap of a painter that tows a small dinghy, the plash of oar in cold water: the sounds of yachts being berthed, ropes being coiled and shouts carried by water, but dulled by coming rain are all here ... there.
There: just the way Claude Monet painted them in 1874, at Le Havre, in France.
This is the Le Havre of more than a hundred years before I used the very same location in my novel Camera Obscura, released globally last month by BeWrite Books. The painting appears in the book, and the location is significant in the story. Much has happened to change the harbour at Le Havre - there are still yachts there, and some fishing boats, but they are not the same as the ones you see here. Renovations and the march of the decades, prosperity, wars, ingenuity, and new architecture have changed the port town.
Enjoy this scene, and seek it in Camera Obscura - and let me know whether you recognize the landmarks.