Monet's wife died in 1879 and Monet remained close to home in Vélheuil for some time afterwards. Towards the end of 1880 the artist made a trip to the Normandy coast and returned several times during 1881 . He first stayed with his brother Leon in the town of Rouen, but then travelled to Leon's holiday home in Petites-Dolles near Fécamp. It was this area of sheer, breathtaking cliffs and sparkling waters that would preoccupy the artist for the next few months, and the marine paintings he produced were received with enthusiasm.
These paintings were densely worked, as seen in this work Ship Aground with its brilliant points of colour and richly dappled surface, The structure of the painting is foremost, with its conflicting horizontals and verticals that lend it an almost abstract air, compounded by his use of rather artificial puff-ball clouds, It is in all respects a work of colour and pattern, even down to the tiny onlookers dwarfed by the great, grounded ship, so roughly painted that they almost disappear into the sands of the beach.