Gustave Courbet, with his famous 'landscapes of the sea', was among the first painters who treated seascapes as a true pictorial subject.
By painting 'The Sea at Palavas' in 1854 he opened the way for painters in the south of France who still often only looked inland.
Landscape artists contemporary with Frédéric Bazille such as Joseph Bonaventure Laurens and Jean-Pierre Faliès included the coastline in their paintings of Montpellier and its surroundings. The area was still untouched, featuring just a few fishing nets and the very earliest bathers.
Later, at the turn of the century, bathing in the sea became a more popular leisure activity and local artists enjoyed practising their art by sketching figures from real life, as seen in the drawings in the sketchbook of the illustrator-watercolorist Etienne-Paul Harant. In 1872 Palavas was now joined to Montpellier via a small train and its beach huts in striped cloth gave it the appearance of a little seaside resort.