Listening to Art

04.04: Gustave Courbet, The Cliffs Near Étretat

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume four, number four: The Cliffs Near Étretat by Gustave Courbet.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This is another painting made in 1869 by Courbet when he was in Normandy in north-west France, this time not at Étretat, just near it.

Gustave Courbet was a realist. He wrote about his approach to art many times, and I read now a brief quote from a manifesto done in late 1861, translated in Jack Lindsay’s Gustave Courbet: His Life and Art (p. 172):

I hold also that painting is an art essentially concrete and can consist only in the representation of real and existent things. It’s a totally physical language which uses for words all visible objects; an abstract object, not visible, non-existent, does not lie in painting’s domain.

Imagination in art consists of knowing how to find the most complete expression of an existing thing, but never to suppose or create this thing itself.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 88 cm wide by 62 cm high.

Now let’s listen to The Cliffs Near Étretat by Gustave Courbet, recorded while on tour from the Ordrupgaard in Denmark, at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, on 25 August 2018.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was The Cliffs Near Étretat by Gustave Courbet. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Lindsay, Jack. Gustave Courbet: His Life and Art. Bath, UK: Adams and Dart, 1973.

National Gallery of Canada. “National Gallery of Canada.” National Gallery of Canada.

Ordrupgaard. “Ordrupgaard.” Ordrupgaard.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Gustave Courbet,”