The Artists and the Somme Bay

The colors of the Bay of Somme inspirated Monet, Manessier….

Alfred Manessier (1911-1993)

Born in 1911 near Abbeville (in Saint Ouen, In the valley of the Nièvre), Alfred Manessier began his career, becoming international, Crotoy and regularly immortalized the Landscapes of a place he considered “One of the most beautiful in the world”: pebbles, Wrinkles of sand, sandbanks and channels,Shimmering water, sunsets, Camaïeux of colors, port and boats …

Discover the Bay and the paintings of Mnessier with a guide

Eugene Boudin

Around 1870, he visited Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and Cayeux-sur-Mer. Its presence on the Picard littoral is not exceptional at a time when famous painters like Manet come here on holiday.
His stays in the Bay of Somme allow Boudin to maintain a sincere friendship for an amateur painter whom he takes under his protection, Louis Braquaval. On the advice of Boudin, Braquaval settled in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme in 1891 to find subjects of predilection. The two friends are charmed by the region “Le Crotoy is beautiful on the side of the dunes. And Cayeux! The bay, the canal, the boats, the sunsets are all subjects covered in nearly sixty paintings of Boudin realized since Saint-Valery-sur-Somme.

The novelist Jules Vernes maintains an intimate relationship with the Bay of Somme and the port of Crotoy. One finds in “The Mysterious Island” (1874-75), the description of Lincoln Island corresponds to the Picardy coast: the Bay of Union is a copy of the Bay of Somme. Granite House, the home of the castaways, corresponds to the location of the Crotoy. An illustrated geography of France and its colonies, the writer describes the town as “a charming little seaport, situated on an advanced peninsula of the bay of the Somme, which has preserved some remnants of its fortified enclosure and the Ruins of the castle where Joan of Arc was shut up by the English in 1431. ”

It is during his outings at sea from Le Crotoy, that the writer will develop his extraordinary novel Twenty Miles Leagues under the sea. He will write it, in his villa, on his boat or on the beach. One finds all his enthusiasm in his words to his friend Hetzel “Ah! My dear friend, what a book if I succeeded! That I found good things at sea by sailing on Saint-Michel! “

“Would this sweet country, flat and blond, be less simple than I thought it first? I discover there strange ways: fishing in a car, hunting in a boat […] Strange, for whom Knows that the game ventures over the bay and crosses it, from Hourdel to Crotoy, Crotoy to Saint-Valery, strange, for who has not climbed in one of these wide-wheeled carts, Fishermen all along the twenty-five kilometers of the beach, to the meeting of the sea …

[…] the sun can lie down quietly beyond the bay of the Somme, a desert moist and flat where the sea, retiring, has left oblong lakes, round puddles, vermilion canals where the horizontal rays bathe … Dune is mauve, with a rare hair of bluish grass, oases of delicate binders whose wind tears, as soon as they hatch, the umbrella skirt veined with rose …

The sand thistles, in azure sheet, mingle with the bull-head, which pricks a thorn so short that it does not distrust him. Flore poor and hard, which does not fade and brave the wind and the salty wave […]

Yet, here and there, greenish the criste-marine, greasy, juicy, acidulous, flesh live and tender of these dunes pale as snow … […]

The bay of the Somme, still wet, darkly sights an Egyptian sky, raspberry, turquoise and green ash. The sea has gone so far that it will never come back again? Yes, she will return, treacherous and furtive as I know her here. We never think of her. We read on the sand, we play, we sleep, facing the sky, until a cold tongue, insinuated between your toes, tears you a nervous cry: the sea is there, flat, covered its twenty kilometers Of beach with a silent snake speed. Before she was scheduled, she wet the book, blackened the white skirt, drowned the croquet and tennis. Five minutes more, and here it beats the wall of the terrace, a sweet and fast flac-flac, a submissive movement and happy bitch who stirs the tail …

A black bird springs from the west, an arrow thrown by the dying sun. It passes over my head with a silken screeching tense and changes, against the dark east, in the gull of snow … ”

Colette, “In the bay of the Somme”, “Fishing party”, The Vines of the vine, Romans, stories, memories (1900-1919), Robert Laffont, Collection “Bouquins”, I, pp. 673-674.

Victor Hugo is inspired by his stay in July 1836 in Saint Valéry  of writing the verses of Oceano Nox poem, published in 1840 in the collection Les Rayons et les Ombres. This poem was born after a storm on the Picardy coast. Unlike the romantics, Victor Hugo opens a reflection on the fate of the shipwrecked.

First stanza:

How many seamen, how many captains
Who left joyful for distant races,
In this gloomy horizon have vanished!
How many have disappeared, hard and sad fortune!
In a bottomless sea, on a moonless night,
Under the blind ocean forever buried!
Last stanza:

Where are they, sailors sinking in the dark nights?
O waves, you know gloomy stories!
Dread deep streams of mothers on their knees!
You tell them by going up the tides,
And that’s what makes you those desperate voices
What you have in the evening when you come to us!

l’hôtel/restaurant des tourelles du crotoy juste devant les grandes plages de sable proche du camping le clos cacheleux
la présence du petit train de la baie de somme, une ancienne locomotive à vapeur qui longe la baie de somme proche du camping le clos cacheleux