The moment when creative inspiration strikes or when a piece of art comes together can be significant and lend something special to the work. That’s what makes the supposed discovery by a team at Texas State University so interesting. They believe they have pinpointed the exact day and time when Claude Monet observed the sunset that appears in his painting “The Cliff, Étretat, Sunset.”
“Monet observed this sunset on Feb. 5, 1883 at 4:53 p.m. local mean time,” Olson said in a press release.
Donald Olson, an astrophysicist working with Texas State physicist Russell Doescher and a team of three students, used “topographical measurements, planetarium software, and old-fashioned research” to identify the time and date they believe inspired the painting.
Olson and the team traveled in 2012 to Étretat, where they discovered that previous assumptions about Monet’s position on the coast for this particular painting were incorrect. “The Texas State team found that the view matched the scene depicted in Étretat: Sunset at only one location — a spot 425 yards from the Porte d’Amont on a rocky beach under an overhanging cliff,” the release reports. They then used the software to compare our 21st-century sky with that of Monet’s day, and used letters by the artist as well as weather records and tide tables to narrow down the date and time. [Hyperallergic]
Of course, there have been comments made about the validity of the research, mainly the fact that Monet could easily have taken some creative licence while working, so the location of the sun in the painting may not in fact indicate when Monet was actually there – but it’s still cool to consider.