In the winter of 1868-1869 Monet's attention was drawn to Etretat in the Caux region of Normandy. He then returned there every year between 1883 and 1886. Like many painters, particularly Gustave Courbet, Monet was captivated by the picturesque qualities of the place, and took inspiration from it for more than fifty of his paintings.
The configuration of "these high cliffs pierced by these strange arches called the Gates" (Maupassant, Adieu, 1884) gives an unusual character to the landscape. The largest of the three openings in the cliffs, the Manneporte, "an enormous vault through which a liner could pass" (Maupassant, Guillemot Rock, 1882), appears in only two of Monet's paintings.