We know that between 20 September and 3 October he stayed at the famous resort of Étretat on the Normandy coast. Situated north-east of Le Havre, Étretat was merely a small fishing village at the beginning of the 19th century with less than one thousand inhabitants. However from the 1830s it became a fashionable holiday resort and by the end of the century had 2, 200 permanent inhabitants, a number which increased enormously over the summer months.
The fame of the place was (and is) based on its rugged rocky coastline, particularly the two cliffs which frame the bay. To the north-east (looking to the right if facing the sea) there is a sloping headland with a low arch known as the Porte d’Amont. On the opposite side is a higher (more than 80 metres) and more spectacular cliff called the Porte d’Aval with its divided summit known as the Aiguille. As the visitor gets closer to Amont from Aval this peak moves around until it can partly be seen through the arch.
Attracted, like the tourists, by the picturesque scenery, many artists visited Étretat in the 19th century, among them Delacroix, Eugène Isabey, Charles Mozin and Eugène Le Poittevin. However, the most masterful depictions of the place were those by Courbet and Monet of around 1868. Monet returned again between 1883 and 1886 and painted an extensive series of views. Boudin, who knew the Normandy coastline well, only turned his attention to this particular feature (and to its opposite cliff, the Amont) in the 1880s, possibly following the interest of his former pupil, Monet.