Boudin, Personnages sur la plage de Trouville, 1865
Musée Eugène Boudin, Honfleur
The young man visited nearby Trouville where he set up a framing business. There he came into contact with artists working in the area and exhibited the works of Jean-François Millet and Gustave Courbet in his shop. Eventually Boudin decided to toss in the business, to become a full time artist himself. By 1856, Boudin had met the younger artist Claude Monet (1840-1926) and the two of them seemed to have worked together in a successful mentor-student relationship.
Boudin's predilection for the study of light led him to apply the Series Principle at an early stage. This innovative approach prefigured the one subsequently applied by Monet, whose series of Rouen Cathedral was painted long after Boudin's church images. Monet declared “I consider Eugène Boudin as my master” so it is not a coincidence that Boudin participated in the First Impressionist Exhibition with his younger colleagues.
The exhibition called Corot to Monet at the National Gallery London in July 2009 was very helpful in placing Corot and Boudin as the early masters and the young Impressionists as later arrivals.
Because Boudin was at heart a maritime Frenchman, the Normandy coast became a major location for his paintings, en plein air of course. I don’t know how much of a sailor he was, but he certainly showed talent in depicting sand, sea, boats, bathers and the fishing industry. But was he self-taught? I cannot find any record of Boudin having attended any art school.
Boudin, On the Beach at Sunset, 1865
Metropolitan Museum Art, Washington DC
38 x 58 cm
I have included Personnages sur la plage de Trouville 1865 (top) even though it showed sky but very little sea, sand or weather. But it was one of his small, portable canvases that he painted right on the beach, carefully capturing the fancily dressed men and women. We can see the long and voluminous skirts, flowery hats, bowlers, suits and vests. In some of his works, we can also see the gentle city folk holding parasols against the sun. We can also start to see his mastery of light in these small works of art.
In the 1870s, when Trouville Beach Scene was painted, Richard Green said the artist had adopted a freer, flickering brushwork which melded the figures, sea and cloud-flecked sky into one sparkling impression. His palette was a subtle mix of greys, blues, beige and buff, enlivened with touches of red. Boudin rendered both the play and reflection of light and the outline of people and objects; his palette of greys and blues, his shading, his consistent harmony were an accurate reflection of nature glimpsed sensitively. He may have had a sailor's frankness and open-heartedness, but Boudin’s 300 seascapes looked radiant.
Boudin, Entrance to Trouville Harbour, 1888,
National Gallery London
32 x 41 cm
The Musée Eugène-Boudin in Honfleur has a decent collection of works by the artists who loved to paint along the coast at a time when Impressionism was just starting. Readers may enjoy the pastels and paintings by Boudin himself.
Monet, The Beach at Trouville, 1870
Monet's new wife and her friend, thought to be Madame Eugène Boudin
National Gallery, London