On my seventh birthday my father gave me my first Tintin book – L’ile Noire (The Black Island) which enthralled me, partly because most of the story takes place in the UK. One of the more spectacular places where the adventure occurs is Beachy Head (see a copy of the appropriate page below).
Finding myself recently not too far from this headland, I decided to make a pilgrimage and see if I could paint some sort of landscape from the view.
Here are a few cliff landscapes of famous artists which I had a look at before going. This is Eugene Boudin’s painting of the beach near Dieppe.
He uses the classic L shaped composition which is sensible enough given the subject. There is plenty going on in the foreground but the cliffs appear of secondary interest.
This is Gustave Courbet’s “Cliffs at Etretat”. He uses a fairly central group mass composition with the beach leading into the picture.
We get a bit more of the sea than in Boudin’s work but I find the foreground boats a little distracting. Next is Monet’s “Cliffs at Etretat”. Monet shows us that Courbet used artistic licence to omit the outlying rock.
The sunlight on the top part of this rock and on the upper parts of the cliff adds interest to this more dramatic rendering. He had a sunnier time of it too.
Below is Edward Lear’s view of Beachy Head. He has very much dramatised the place and given it a look of Carrara marble rather than the dirty chalk that it actually is.
This was my first shot at Beachy Head. I felt, however, I needed less foreground and should emphasise the majesty of the place by giving the cliff face more prominence.
This was my second shot. As you can see, it was blowing a gale and I had a job of it to keep the easel from going flying. It was also unsettling to hear bits of cliff tumble down to the beach next to me. This is certainly more dramatic in composition and not unlike Lear’s in atmosphere but I wanted a little more sun and a lot less haze and sea spray.
This was my third shot. I feel it does the place greater justice. If you look carefully you may be able to see Tintin standing at the top of the cliff.