Cézanne seems to have first visited the fishing village of L'Estaque in the mid-1860s. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), he sought refuge in this picturesque, sheltered port, lodged between
the mountains and the sea near Marseilles.
Upon his return there in the summer of 1876, he enthused to Camille Pissarro: "It is like a playing card. Red roofs over the blue sea. . . . The sun is so terrific here that it seems to me as if the objects were silhouetted not only in black and white, but in blue, red, brown, and violet."
Cézanne painted some twenty canvases of L'Estaque over the next decade, a dozen of them facing toward or across the gulf of Marseilles. In the distance of this painting, atop the hill to the right of the jetty, the towers of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde stand watch over the city of Marseilles.